Life is cheap when there is a lot of money to be made.
That’s certainly one of the clearest messages to come out of the recent rash of gang-related violence that, as of the time this was written, had claimed five lives in a matter of days – three in Surrey and two more in Richmond.
It’s a clear message, but far from a new one.
For a couple of decades, now, we’ve watched as one after another, young men and, occasionally, women, have been gunned down in gang-related violence in the streets of Metro Vancouver, including more than one here in South Surrey.
It’s a familiar pattern. A young man is shot to death on the street or inside his home, the stolen car used to carry out the murder is dumped and torched in a neighbouring community.
Retaliation comes swiftly, following the same process, over and over again.
Sometimes months pass between shootings; sometimes it’s hours. Sometimes, the violence takes the life of an innocent victim or two as well.
And for what?
Is the lure of a shiny, expensive new vehicle and a wallet stuffed with cash too much resist, even when the associations required to get it are, let’s say, less than desirable?
Truthfully, it’s not all that difficult to understand the attraction gang life holds for men the age of the most recent victims – who ranged from 29 to just 14 years old.
We live in a world where image is everything and people with millions of “followers” on social media are actually paid to be “influencers,” making money just to be seen wearing a certain brand of clothing, drinking a particular type of vodka or driving a specific car.
All of it is to designed create a sense that without money – and a lot of it – you just don’t matter.
Combine that level of lavish excess with the unwavering sense of immortality that comes with youth – the feeling that nothing can touch you – and the temptation to earn “easy money” must be overwhelming.
The obvious question, and one so far without a satisfactory answer, is what can be done to turn this bloody tide?
Certainly, parents have a fundamental role in helping to guide their children, leading by example, reaching out for support where they can and having some frank and uncomfortable conversations.
But as long as a new SUV holds more value than a life, they will have a long and difficult road ahead of them.