Surrey’s youth has come together to rally against gang violence.
A car rally led by Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) took stakeholders and youth throughout the city as a united show of force against gang activity Thursday afternoon.
Finishing up at Bear Creek Park, participants and passersby had an opportunity to learn more about programs designed to steer youth away from gang violence. Participating organizations included the RCMP, Options Community Services, Crime Stoppers and schools.
Semiahmoo Secondary student Nav Singh, 16, said his community sees “a lot” of people turning to gang lifestyle because they are not informed about the dangers.
“Older people are trying to steer them away and they don’t emphasize, they don’t connect as much,” Singh told the Now-Leader. “With youth coming here and showing them we also don’t support gang violence, it might de-stigmatize getting away from it. It might bring more people to dislike it, or speak out against it.”
While it’s mostly young teen boys that tend to follow the path to gangs, Singh said girls are not immune. He said young people are drawn to the money, cars, and “lavish lifestyle” that is associated with gangs in the media. What young people aren’t considering, Singh said, is the negative consequences or strategies used by gangs to keep members on the line.
“So draw them in and then afterwards hooking them with either getting addicted to drugs or get them into debt so they constantly owe the gang. Or they threaten them with violence. It’s a never ending cycle as soon as you join and we want to spread awareness of it and help as much as we can,” Singh said.
Asked if he’s aware of classmates that have turned to gangs, Singh said there’s a general sentiment that students are aware, but don’t often step in before it’s too late.
“People in school have general ideas but people strike it off as unimportant… they aren’t my friends, why should I care?” Singh said.
“But who knows… down the line, what if they could be a lawyer, a doctor, or the next Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos? These people, when they die young, they lose all of that opportunity in the future.”
PICS event co-ordinator Kathleen Hughes said Thursday’s event is a way for the community to get involved in the issues happening in Surrey.
“Two of the things that are trouble spots right now are drug toxicity and gang activity. So we’re here today bringing a highlight to that,” Hughes said.
Hughes echoed a Crime Stoppers phrase, ‘If you see something, say something.”
“If we don’t get involved, it doesn’t change. It’s grassroots, from the bottom up,” Hughes said. “We want something done, we want to see change.”
In 2019, PICS held a walk to raise awareness, and in 2020, they held a virtual event fighting for the same cause.
“Things really, really haven’t changed. We have questions. Statistics say that kids as young as 13 are being recruited into gangs. They go to the school grounds, the playgrounds to recruit them. Are the schools and recreation areas safe?”
The theme for Thursday’s event was REACH, which stands for realize, educate, accept, communicate, and help.