WINNIPEG — Saturday’s deadly shooting at a popular Osborne intersection has many asking if gang violence is more prevalent in Winnipeg than we may know.
When one former gang member heard about the incident, he suspected it could be retaliation.
“Just a guess, it’s retaliation to something. Whether it’s territory..it’s about a threat,” the man whose identity Global News is concealing said.
When he got involved with gangs, he said he gained a sense of belonging and protection.
“At that time I didn’t see it as a gang. It was mainly protection. The power that came with that – the emotion of a sense of safety, sense of belonging and feeling free is a strong emotion.”
This is a common story line for people recruited into gangs. The recruits have often been abandoned, are vulnerable and scouted at a young age. But getting out isn’t easy.
“I finally told them, that I’m not going any deeper. You can kill me if you want because I’m already dead inside,” he said.
Even after getting out, there are aspects of that time in his life that will remain with him forever.
“Memories of what was done to women. What was done to people who didn’t pay. That glamorous side wasn’t so glamorous however being part of that made you feel safe which is insanity.”
The former gang member estimates there are well over 20 gangs in the city and local support groups have said resources to get people out of gangs are limited.
“Any abusive relationship, when you’re trying to exit, that’s when you’re most vulnerable and most at risk,” Kate Kehler, GAIN executive member said.
“We don’t have enough supports in place here in Winnipeg.”
The Gang Action Interagency Network is working on grass roots solutions to the city’s gang problem.
“We have a tremendous amount of poverty in Winnipeg, and we have a tremendous amount of family breakdown. We know those are two main reasons why people get involved,” Kehler said.
Kehler stressed the importance of bringing resources together to prevent youth from getting involved and help for when they desperately want to leave.