New program shattering glamourized image of gangs in Surrey

A new anti-gang presentation tailor-made for Surrey, is providing localized information on gangs and drugs that is hitting home with students, parents, educators, and newcomers.

This past fall, launched “Shattering the Image”, a new presentation that shares the true story of gang life in Surrey and its consequences. Adapted from the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit’s (CFSEU-BC) popular “End Gang Life” program, “Shattering the Image” talks about gangs and dial-a-doping, but information is specific to Surrey and geared towards a younger audience, primarily students in grades 6-7.

“With the current drug and gang climate in the Lower Mainland and kids being recruited at younger ages, we knew we had to adjust the way we were approaching gang prevention in Surrey,” says Sgt. Mike Sanchez of the Surrey Gang Enforcement Team. “We found that when we share stories of kids who have gotten caught up in dial-a-doping right here in Surrey, it really hits home with the youth.”

“Shattering the Image” details the history of gangs and drug trafficking in Surrey and the demise of local youth caught up in the gang lifestyle. The presentation identifies current trends in the gang landscape and includes officers sharing real stories about the dangers of dial-a-doping.

In an adapted presentation for adults, tips on how to recognize the signs of drug dealing are shared along with the emergence of fentanyl and the young victims it has left behind. The use of social media in gang recruitment is also discussed. Young people can get exposed to glamourized ideations of gang life through videos, images or chat rooms, normalizing these behaviours at a young age. Gang recruiters then prey on individuals showing interest in this material, and draw them into a lifestyle that is extremely difficult to escape.

“We know that kids are getting information about gangs from a variety of sources, including social media,” says Sanchez. “Our job is to give kids the facts so they are equipped to make better choices.”

SGET officers facilitate two to four “Shattering the Image” presentations a week. Requests come from partner agencies including the Surrey School District, Justice Education Society, and local community groups, including newcomer groups. Officers will also be presenting with the school district at the upcoming Gangs and Guns Training Symposium.

“There is definitely a need for these safe, open discussions with youth prior to them entering secondary school,” says Rob Rai from Surrey Safe Schools. “Building these connections early and often has a real impact on students and can start to turn the tide and prevent the next generation from entering this lifestyle altogether. The Surrey RCMP is shedding light on the realities of drugs and gangs and instilling confidence in our students to make positive life choices.”

After a recent presentation, SGET officers were approached by a Safe Schools liaison. The educator realized the items she saw in a young student’s belongings were in line with what was being described in the presentation as tools of the dial-a-doping trade. This quickly triggered a series of meetings between police, school staff, the parents and the student, which led to a host of supports being put in place. The student is now part of the Surrey WRAP program for at-risk youth and on track to graduate ahead of other students in the program.

Thanks to a recent contribution from the BC Civil Forfeiture Office, SGET now has a highly visible mobile billboard to promote its anti-gang message, in the form of a luxury SUV that was seized from an alleged Coquitlam drug trafficker last year.

The Surrey RCMP has many education and enforcement strategies for preventing gangs and criminal organizations from operating in their communities. One of the most effective strategies is to stop youth at an early age from getting involved in this type of activity in the first place. The Surrey RCMP are committed to a long-term strategy to address the issue of youth criminal involvement by promoting positive choices for kids and accessible support and guidance to parents.

For a complete list of the Surrey RCMP’s youth programs, visit their website.