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Man with gang connections arrested after vapes sold to Victoria-area students

Click to play video: 'Victoria police chief warns about gang recruitment'
Victoria police chief warns about gang recruitment
RELATED: Victoria Police Chief Del Manak is warning families that gangs are recruiting in schools and targeting kids as young as 11 years old. Kylie Stanton reports. – Feb 28, 2024

Exactly a week after the Victoria police chief warned the school board, students and parents that gangs were targeting youth near schools, police announced a man was arrested for selling vapes to kids.

Victoria police officers saw a man, who has known ties to the B.C. gang conflict, selling vape products to students just off school property in January.

The suspect was seen selling to students at multiple schools, including Esquimalt High School, and Reynolds Secondary School, and was seen talking to students outside North Saanich Middle School.

Victoria Police’s strike force unit arrested the man as part of Project Halo — an ongoing covert operation.

“I am proud of the work Strike Force has done in gathering intelligence and building evidence to make an arrest,” Chief Del Manak said.

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“This is not an easy task when we are on the outside looking in at schools, but our team is dedicated to taking action on gang activity.

“This is just one person of many who has been observed, and our message to those who are targeting our youth is, ‘You are not welcome in our communities, you are not welcome in our schools. We see you, we are watching you, and we are coming for you.’”

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When the suspect was arrested, police were able to seize 859 nicotine vapes, 495 THC vapes, 290 THC gummies, 1.6 kg of cannabis, four imitation firearms, three knives, two masks and brass knuckles.

Click to play video: 'Victoria police chief warns of gang recruitment from schools'
Victoria police chief warns of gang recruitment from schools

Police are warning the public — parents, guardians, students and school staff — that organized crime groups are targeting students with different tactics.

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Those tactics include targeting vulnerable youth by offering them a sense of belonging or connection, using newly recruited youths to recruit others, and using extortion to recruit, such as tricking youths into believing they are in debt.

Police said youth victims are much more likely to report to police out of fear.

The organized crime groups involved in selling vape products to youth are also involved in other criminal activities including drug trafficking, violence and weapons possession, police said.

Local youth support services staff said they often see the impacts of gangs targeting kids in the Victoria area.

“We have seen an aggressive shift in recruitment over the last year,” said Mia Golden, a Mobile Youth Services Team counsellor.

“Now, gang members are targeting students in school as young as middle school, who are being groomed and recruited through selling products like vapes, designer clothing, or drugs.”

Victoria police is once again, urging the school board to reinstate the school police liaison officer program. The department believes the program is a strong deterrent, preventing youth from joining or participating in gang activity.

The program was voted to be removed last year due to concerns that having police officers at schools was having an impact on Black and Indigenous students.

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More can be read online to learn more about key indicators of youth gang involvement on the End Gang Life website.

 

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