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Former gang members weigh in on escalating Lower Mainland violence

Click to play video: 'Former gangsters speak out about uptick in gun violence' Former gangsters speak out about uptick in gun violence
After a dozen shootings in less than a month claimed nine lives across the Lower Mainland, Nadia Stewart spoke to two former gang members about what they think it will take to get gangsters to leave that dangerous life behind – May 15, 2021

Amid the Lower Mainland’s dangerously escalating gang conflict, two former gang members are sharing their perspective on the situation.

Stanley Price and Shenan Charania were both able to transition out of the gang life, and now work with the KidsPlay Foundation– an organization that aims to guide youth away from criminal activity through mentorship and sport.

There have been 11 shootings in Metro Vancouver over the last month, nine of them fatal. Many of the killings have taken place in extremely public locations, including the Langley Sportsplex and the Vancouver International Airport.

Read more: Youth the key to long-term disruption of gangs, says B.C. cop

Many of those on the front lines of the conflict, said Price, are youth recruited early who the gangs see as expendable.

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“That’s what I was seeing the last five years I was an active gang member, was watching a lot of my friends dying or ending up in jail. A lot of the guys I know are doing life sentences now,” he said.

According to Price, the lure of quick cash and power draws many youth in — but once they’re on the inside, it’s hard to see a way out.

Click to play video: 'Helping kids at risk of gang involvement' Helping kids at risk of gang involvement
Helping kids at risk of gang involvement – May 15, 2021

He said he’s living proof that that’s not the case. Price decided to get out of the lifestyle when he realized it was hurting his family and kids.

“It was affecting me as a person, it made me an evil person. I knew I could do so much better,” he said.

“There is a life after. The guys who think you can’t leave? It’s possible man, there is a life out there. I’m doing it.”

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READ MORE: 1 dead, 2 injured in shooting at Burnaby Cactus Club

Charania, who spent a decade in the gang life after getting sucked in as a teen in the late 1990s, said the recent escalation of violence left him with a feeling of sadness.

“Whatever happened in the nineties, where we saw that spike with the South Asian community particularly, it’s the same context. The content is different, the people are different, it’s a little bit more careless, but it’s the same thing,” he said.

Charania got into drugs and stealing cars after being bullied in school, and dropped out of high school by 15.

Click to play video: 'Community group fighting gang recruitment efforts' Community group fighting gang recruitment efforts
Community group fighting gang recruitment efforts – May 14, 2021

“I was looking for a sense of belonging. I didn’t see that and I got trapped into looking for that everywhere,” he said.

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Police enforcement is a necessary aspect of tackling the gang problem, he said, as is communicating the very real consequences of gang activity to young people.

But he said the only way to cut off the pipeline of young recruits is to give kids support and positive outlets.

Rather than being scared straight, give youth the help and the resources to develop their own aspirations and goals, he said, or the message risks going “in one ear and out the other.”

READ MORE: Expert says COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of Metro Vancouver gang violence

“I’ve spoken to youth and they feel like they’re being imposed upon a lot: here’s what’s good, here’s what’s bad, here’s what’s right, here’s what’s wrong, do this, do that,” Charania said.

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Integrated Homicide Investigation Team appeal to parents – May 15, 2021

He also had a message for parents.

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“Connect with your children. That’s very, very important. Don’t play the parent role 24 hours a day, connect with them, listen to them genuinely,” he said.

“Why I say that is when a child faces crisis they go to who they trust. And if they don’t trust a parent, if they see them as a punisher, they’re going to the boys, automatically.”

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