BY INDIRA PRAHST
Instructor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
ASSISTANT Commissioner Dan Malo, Lower Mainland District Commander of RCMP, warns the community not to get complacent about the decrease in gang-related homicides because he fears that otherwise we might see a repeat of the cycle of 2007, 2008 and 2009.
He was speaking at the “Youth Violence and Family Relationships,” community event organized by the South Asian Community Coalition Against Youth Violence (SACCAYV) and supported by the RCMP, MOSAIC, Acting together SSHRC-CURA Project and CYCC Network last week.
Malo’s address was very well received as he gave a clear overview of the gang-related homicide rate, enabling an evaluation of the success of the collaborative work with police, academics and the community.
While the homicide rates have decreased since the spate of gang violence in 2008 and 2009 he was concerned that the community might once again cast a blind eye to the gang problem.
He pointed out: “We have to see if we are successful in what we do. And I know if you look at the media, you see again homicides that take place in our community and often they say one homicide is too many, but really in 2008 we had 32 gang-related homicides here in the Lower Mainland – 2009 we had 36.
“That was really the spike in gang conflict that we saw. And then we started doing a lot of work. We started looking at how we deal with gang violence, how we deal with outreach and how to deal with youth in a completely different way. And really it’s a hub approach … But now is not the time to start looking elsewhere.”
He said that in 2010 there were 18 gang-related homicides, in 2011 there were 10 such homicides, in 2012 we had 18 and in 2013 we had 13.
He added: “So we see a significant reduction. But we have done a lot of work in the last year together. So far, we have four gang-related homicides and we are already into October.”
Malo said that in all probability we may be seeing a shift in tackling the gang issue especially through more collective work. However, he also cautioned that we may start to pay attention to other issues and said that the police worry that if we take our eyes off this issue, we are going to see a repeat of the cycle of gang-related homicides of 2007, 2008, and 2009.
MALO also spoke about the organization of families that has formed to cope with the loss of their loved ones to gang violence.
He said: “We are going to be back spending a considerable amount time dealing with the aftereffects of gang violence and when I say these aftereffects, I mean we thought we would never have to arrange an association of families and parents that get together regularly that are the parents of victims of gang-related homicide.
“We have so many of them that we actually have a group that meets regularly and the police are part of that group here in Surrey where the meetings take place. But it’s sad that we actually have to have an association of these people that are going to spend the rest of their lives in grieving the loss of their relatives or partners or children.”
Malo urged the coalition to continue to engage the community on the subject. In directing his speech on proactive solutions he said that what needs to be done with respect to the coalition is to extend its outreach beyond the South Asian community. He spoke about his experience working with the gurdwara leaders, described by some as a historical event when they got together at the training centre in Chilliwack last year.
He said: “What I took away from that is that the heads of each gurdwara said that it’s not about their community – that every child in this province is their child as well. I think we now have to stretch it outside of the South Asian community and have you use your influence in order to look at this as a bigger issue and, as you know, in B.C. it’s different than gangs in other countries or parts of North America. They are not geographically focused and they do not sit on street corners, they don’t have people that grow out generational in terms of gang violence within one specific neighbourhood, and specific area zip code. Our gang problem is multijurisdictional. … I would urge you to look at that.”
Malo also advised the audience to look beyond which kids might be lured into the gang world or are involved in bullying and look at what we are “going to do about de-risking these kids that are at risk” in the province. He spoke about how the police organizations have matured in tackling these issues.
He said: “We don’t see it as a “fix-it problem” anymore. The police are a culture where we fix things – we are given a problem and we fix it. We go to a complaint and we fix it – that’s how we are built. But the police have rethought the way they do this. What I am seeing … we have to look at crime and community as a hub – everything from how a building gets built to how a front door gets put in … how your social services are being placed in your neighbourhoods.” He added the communities are diverse and we have to see these structural differences.
Malo said we have to look at how we will structure neighbourhoods and what they are going to look like in terms of sustainability. Who is going to live in them and how are we going to reach out to the kids.
He added: “So it’s bigger than you and I – is what I want to leave you with. … You need to take the time and celebrate yourselves and hats off to you. As a South Asian community you have been so proactive in the work that you are doing.”
Malo urged: “My message is don’t put your foot off the gas, now is not the time. Now is the time to do the work that we had no time to do in 2007, 2008, 2009, when we were responding to a homicide every 5.7 days. Now is the time to focus.”