The initiative to exchange gang tattoo removal for information is a death sentence for some gang members, according to a Vancouver man who counsels people looking to go straight.

Amir Javid, founder of Real World Truth and an ex-gangster himself, said the idea may seem progressive, but talking to police about your associates is “the No. 1 sin within that culture.”
“They’ll accept you more if you’re a rapist, then if you’re a snitch,” Javid said.

Although he has a gang tattoo himself, Javid said he would rather keep it — and his life — than to even consider sharing information.

“How can I help these men and woman and get them to trust me, if they think I’m going to snitch on them?” Javid said.

Last week, RCMP Sgt. Shinder Kirk said Mounties believe the tattoo removal helps gang members re-integrate into society. Javid said that tattoo removal alone isn’t enough and actually discourages people from approaching police because it asks them to become a “snitch.”

He points to a program in the Los Angeles area called Homeboy Industries that claims “nothing stops a bullet like a job.”

“They’re able to mesh tattoo removal and employment for gang members,” he said. “They teach trades to these gang members and real life skills. And those skills are then transferred into an actual business within the organization.”

Javid called L.A.’s gang issue a generational problem and said Vancouver is on the brink of creating that same culture.

Real World Truth

• Since founding Real World Truth in 2006 Amir Javid has counselled various gang members and made presentations to more than 3,000 people — mostly school children.
He said turning his life around was tough.

“I said to myself, ‘If it’s so hard for me and I have such a willing desire, can you imagine how hard it is for some kid that might not articulate himself in the way I do, or might not have the support network that I have such as my family?’”

He said gangsters are usually looking for someone to follow.

“Gangs are just one guy followed by a bunch of other guys. If I can be the example … telling them, ‘Hey man, I care about you, I’m not going to give up on you,’ they’ll follow me into this lifestyle … where there’s peace.”

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