As increasingly public gangland executions continue to make headlines in Metro Vancouver, efforts continue behind the scenes to stop kids from being sucked into the lifestyle.
KidsPlay Foundation is one of the non-profit groups in B.C. working to get to youth before they’re seduced by the illusory promise of quick cash and a luxury lifestyle.
The organization uses former gangsters to dispel myths about the reality of gang life, while offering mentorships and sports programs to give kids healthy outlets.
“You have that glorified, romanticized Scarface lifestyle that comes with it. They want the cars, the girls, the suits, the clubs, the watches, the belts — they want everything that comes with the that lifestyle,” Kal Dosanjh, KidsPlay founder and veteran B.C. police detective, told Global News.
“Acceptance, identity, they want to belong to something, they think it’s a brotherhood which is a huge misconception.”
Dosanjh said a surprising number of young people being recruited by gangs come from stable, middle-class backgrounds with plenty of support at home.
But gangs, he said, are experts at identifying youth who might be susceptible to their message — often beginning the grooming process with kids as early as Grade 6.
By the time they’re in high school, he said, those kids become a disposable resource for gang leaders.
“Who’s to benefit at the end of the day? It’s not the kids. These kids might make a small percentage of that money, the greater percentage goes to the bosses sitting at the top,” he said.
“Even if these kids end up getting killed at the end of the day or charged for that matter … it’s not a big deal.”
While police face the greatest scrutiny during a flare-up in gang violence, Dosanjh said addressing the recruitment pipeline remains among the most important ways to disrupt gangs in the long run.
The process needs to start early, before gangsters are able to get their hooks into youth, he said.
“This is something where you have to start going into schools at an early age when they’re still in (Grade) Five, Six and Seven, instilling good solid principles and values and changing their trajectory by giving them positive, constructive outlets so they can stay on the right track,” he said.
“That’s how you’re going to defuse and deal with this situation.”