Sunday, April 21, 2024

Police arrest suspected gang member believed to be recruiting at Victoria schools

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A suspected gang member allegedly recruiting students from schools in the Victoria area was arrested last month, as reported by the Chief of the Victoria Police Department (VicPD).

Chief Del Manak informed the Greater Victoria School Board on Monday that the individual was allegedly recruiting students in parking lots across the street from several schools.

“This is just one person of many who have been observed, and we continue to work on targeting these activities.”

Chief Manak stated that seven street gangs are active in the Greater Victoria area and have successfully recruited members from district high schools and middle schools to traffic drugs and vape pens.

He added that gangs are coercing parents whose children have been recruited for illegal activities like trafficking, resorting to violence and threats. In some instances, families have relocated to evade gang pressure.

Police have received reports of drugs being sold to students as young as 11-years-old.

During his discussion with the board, Chief Manak reiterated his request for the reinstatement of the school-liaison officer program, expressing readiness to allocate officers to the initiative.

The board unanimously voted last year to terminate the program, citing concerns for the comfort of Black and Indigenous students in the presence of law enforcement.


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In July of last year, there were reports of an uptick in gang activity, recruitment and sex trafficking among youths in Greater Victoria.

These gangs exist in Victoria, on Vancouver Island and in recent years, they have been coming to the island from the mainland in increasing numbers for recruitment.

On May 30th, 2023, School District 61 (SD61) sent out a letter to parents warning them of the fact that gang activity does occur and youths are often made targets in the summer months because they are vulnerable and have free, unsupervised time to spare.

In this letter, Aaron Parker, Principal of Victoria High School warned of some telltale signs of gang involvement and pleaded with parents to have conversations with their children regarding the harm that can befall them if they continue on that path.

“The primary role of a School Police Liaison Officer is education and crime prevention. Without SPLOs we are not able to get involved with vulnerable students early, to help prevent gang recruitment and keep students safe,” said Chief Manak.

“Police in schools are a direct deterrent to gang involvement and other concerning, criminal or violent activity that targets and impacts vulnerable youth.”

He said the role that school-liaison officers played has not been filled by others, such as social workers or mental-health workers.

Local police departments have recently held information sessions on gang recruitment and activity in and around schools, drawing full attendance from concerned parents, with over 600 attendees so far.

“It’s clear that there’s an appetite for more information on how to keep youth safe,” said Manak.

Manak suggested that the board establish a committee comprising students, parents, teachers, and police to address the presence of officers in schools.

 

 

With files from Curtis Blandy

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Victoria Buzz Staffhttps://www.victoriabuzz.com
Your inside source for Greater Victoria happenings. Established in 2012.

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