Vancouver’s police department and school board have teamed up with the provincial gang unit to introduce the End Gang Life program into local schools.
The program was created in 2013 by Staff Sgt. Lindsey Houghton, a former Vancouver police officer who is now with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C., in 2013 as a way to deter teens and young adults from getting involved with gangs.
“I don’t think I’m saying anything that people don’t already know but police are not going to arrest our way out of gang problems,” he said. “If we’re going to be successful in preventing youths and young adults from getting involved in gangs, it’s going to take a long-term, coordinated, evidence-based strategic approach.”
Since 2013, the program has been rolled out in more than 65 schools across the province. Aimed at high school students, the program will be introduced at 18 schools in Vancouver. In fact, the first two presentations already took place last week.
“Information and awareness are key, especially at a young age, when you’re making decisions that could impact the rest of your life,” said VPD Supt. Michelle Davey. “The End Gang Life program will now be one of many programs used by the VPD to connect with students and help build positive and trusting relationships with Vancouver’s youth.”
The program includes presentations on the realities of gang life, which will be tailored for Vancouver students, and presented by members of Vancouver police’s school liaison and gang crime units, as well as a talk by a former gang member.
End Gang Life also includes a gang exiting and intervention team that, Houghton said, has so far helped 55 individuals leave gangs.
“There is no doubt that End Gang Life has saved lives and deterred people from getting involved in the gang lifestyle,” Houghton said. “Having the Vancouver Police Department as another ambassador for End Gang Life, and relaying its important messages of prevention and education, is a critical piece that may empower youth and young adults to stand up to gangs and make positive choices.”
Houghton added that after giving presentations officers have been approached by students who say they are actively being recruited to start selling drugs and now feel empowered to say no.
“Based on the program’s past success, we are pleased to be partnering with the Vancouver Police Department and the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia,” said Robert Schindel, associate superintendent at Vancouver School Board. “We strongly believe educating our students is one of the most effective ways of preventing gang involvement.”