Regina police released results of a two-month operation on Monday that targeted gang members in the city. Nine had been arrested and charged, some of them allegedly members of the Native Syndicate gang.
Police operations are one way to combat gang activity, but a handful of local groups are trying to tackle the problem in a different way.
Shawna Oochoo, co-founder of the White Pony Lodge, was young when she was first exposed to gang culture in North Central.
“Honestly, I would have been about 8 years old.”
“I really had nobody in my life at that time to tell me otherwise,” Oochoo said.
Oochoo is now also leading the ‘Straight Outta: North Central’ project, a presentation with former gang members that she hopes will educate at-risk youth before they join a gang.
“The final result of being gang-involved, or gang-related, is jails, institutions and death,” she said.
It is the latest community-based push to divert Regina’s youth away from gang life.
The North Central Community Association (NCCA) has a number of options that try to steer children in the right direction. Just last year, NCCA started the VIBE program.
“We sort of take a prevention approach,” executive director Michael Parker said.
“We just do a series of different after school evening programs like crafting classes, babysitting courses, to name a few.”
According to the community groups the only way to make a real difference — and break inter-generational gang involvement — is to have a long-term, heavily funded program.
The staff at Street Culture Project Inc. offer long term support to gang-involved youth through mentorship, day programs and the option of housing. Most of the youth that use Street Culture find success, but the organization can only take a small amount of youth at a time.
“Moving a large amount of kids through a specific program without a long-term plan… they’re just going to go back to what they were doing before,” said Street Culture Project director of operations, Mike Gerrand.
That is why Oochoo focused on presentations that she hopes will make youth think twice before pursuing gang life.
“The biggest impact I hope to make is on my daughter,” she said.
Serenity Anderson, Oochoo’s 15-year-old daughter, said she has already been impacted.
“Me watching her doing all this good stuff… I don’t want to be a part of this gang stuff,” Anderson said.
“I don’t want other kids to be a part of it.”