But South Asians have mobilized against gangs more than any other community
BY RATTAN MALL
UNFORTUNATELY, young South Asian men continue to be lured into the deadly world of gangs.
When I asked gang expert Sgt. Lindsey Houghton about gang trends in the South Asian community and if there were fewer people joining gangs or whether it was the same old situation, he noted: “Well, it’s still the same old situation unfortunately.”
Houghton, who is a high profile spokesperson for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – BC (CFSEU-BC), the province’s anti-gang unit, told me: “What we see is still the continuing trend of a handful of predominantly young South Asian men who are for whatever reason are attracted to this lifestyle despite having every opportunity afforded to them because they come from middle class / upper middle class families.”
He added: “They have opportunity for schooling. They have opportunity for good careers. They continue to be lured in and they believe all of the myths and lies that are fed to them about gangs and the gang lifestyle.
“And unfortunately, as we have seen over the years that’s led to a significant number of young South Asian men being killed because of gangs or organized crime violence.”
But Houghton also pointed out: “As a result of that we’ve seen the South Asian community more than any other ethnic group mobilize against this and you know the work of Mr. Balwant Sanghera and the South Asian Community Coalition Against Youth Violence is a prime example of that.
“No other community – ethnic or otherwise – has mobilized like they have and it’s a result of what happened – the Bindy Johals and all of the names, most of whom people have forgotten except their families; there’s too many of them.”
Houghton added: “We all want this to stop and there is no reason why it shouldn’t stop, because trials like the Surrey Six and other very high profile gang murders should be reinforcing the [fact in people’s minds] that gang life is a dead end. You are not going to reach the age of 30.
“Most of these people are just kids that end up getting shot and killed, and you are going to destroy your family or you are going to put your family at risk. Oftentimes families are victims as well. Either it’s directly from violence: their house is shot at or set on fire – that’s something we’ve seen happening for years whether it’s the South Slope of Vancouver or in other areas – or the family’s going to have to live with the stigma that their child was involved as a perpetrator or as a victim or both.
“These are things that should mobilize a community and people shouldn’t bury their heads in the sand and think it’s not happening in their community. It’s happening in every community and people should care and talk to their kids about this issue.”
COMMENTING on the 2014 Community Report of the CFSEU-BC that shows a significant decline in gang violence, Houghton told The VOICE: “We continue to be very aggressive in how we target the most violent gang members on our streets and the people who pose the greatest risk to public safety and we are not going to stop at anything until they are either behind bars or they have changed their behaviour. That’s a commitment we’ve made and we’ve told these people that we are going to be relentless in how we remove them from the equation.”
So is the message getting through to them?
Houghton said: “The message is certainly getting through to some. We know that in the last six months there have been several of them who as a result of either our prevention or education or disruption or even enforcement have decided to change their behaviour or simply move. And that’s a success because it makes our community safer.”
So are there fewer such threats now as compared to a year or two years ago?
Houghton replied: “If you are looking at just the statistics, we’ve seen a significant decline in stats related to gang violence over the last year and that’s a very good thing. People always ask me ‘well, are we still in a gang war?’ Well, of course, we are! We always have been and we can’t take our eye off the ball or our foot off the gas just because the stats are low.
“That’s one of the purposes of this report – to remind people that ‘hey look, we’re going in the right direction, we’ve been doing some great work, but if we don’t continue this work and if the communities don’t continue to work with the police or don’t continue their advocacy against gangs and gang violence, then it’s going to come back. The numbers are going to rise again.’
“There are gang members out on our streets every single day who look to commit violence or look to commit crimes whether it’s selling drugs or shooting somebody. That’s always a potential in every single community in British Columbia and across Canada.