Vancouver police Det. Doug Spencer says the work he does — giving presentations to Lower Mainland students about the realities of gang life — won’t be quantified for years to come.
But he says if gang violence is down a decade from now, he’ll have done his job.
“I saw 80 funerals (when I was) in the gang squad,” said Spencer, who was so troubled by the “needless death” he started the Truth About Gangs program, which he gives with partners Elvis Bellia and Adam Dhaliwal.
“(Students) see pictures of dead bodies,” Spencer said. “We point out that they are kids just like (our audience) who made the wrong decisions … We don’t want to sugar-coat it.”
Spencer said gang members are like pimps. They recruit kids by giving them money, friendship and status before starting them on petty crimes.
“Most kids know it’s wrong but just think about the initial gain.”
He said kids with low self-esteem or who have trouble fitting in are more susceptible to recruitment, adding that the sudden feeling of acceptance is difficult to resist.
“Some kids get involved because their parents are not monitoring them,” he added.
Spencer said while the long-term success of the program can’t be measured, there are daily indications of its short-term success. Some students have told him they were heading toward a dangerous lifestyle until they saw the presentation.
“That’s what it’s about,” he said.