Gang recruitment through social media a growing concern


WATCH: Technology has revolutionized many things. We can now communicate with friends around the world using apps and social media. But as Luisa Alvarez reports technology has also revolutionized how gangs recruit and it’s a growing concern.

Social media is a big part of our lives and the lives of youth on Vancouver Island, but with the new digital age come new problems.

Mia Golden is the Coordinator of the Crime Reduction and Exploitation Diversion Program.

She warns it is especially problematic when gangs use social media apps to recruit young teens into criminal activity.

“What will happen is that they will establish a relationship with the youth usually online,” said Golden,

“They may try and friend them on Facebook or follow them on Instagram, and then slowly establish a rapport with them online.”

Once they have established that trust, Golden says they slowly start luring the youth into drugs or partying and that can escalate into a criminal lifestyle.

Cst. Matt Baker with West Shore RCMP says asking your kids questions can go a long way into determining whether your child is being recruited.

“You don’t know who is actually on the other end of that phone, snap chat, for instance, it could be anybody,” said Baker

“Its one of those things you have to pay attention to and ask questions.”

With social media influencing younger and younger kids, Golden says it is important to intervene as soon as you see warning signs.

“Suddenly not being interested in school, no longer participating in their extra curricular activities, a shift in how they dress,” she said.

“Also hanging out with somebody that is older, and it doesn’t have to be significantly older, but if a twelve-year-old is hanging out with a seventeen-year old that’s something to be aware of.”

While both C.R.E.D and the West Shore RCMP recognize that organized youth gangs are not yet a significant concern , it is a growing one.

“There has been an increase in substance abuse among middle school and high school-aged youth, drug dealing, exploitation through social media has also increased,” said Golden.

“More youth are carrying weapons in order to protect themselves.”

Since the creation of C.R.E.D in 2012, Golden says the workload has more than doubled, unlike the funding which has decreased.

Pacific Center Family Services has applied for more funding, hoping to increase staffing hours in order to provide more services.

They include prevention and education in schools at the middle school level, where Golden says risk factors are beginning to emerge.




Luisa AlvarezLuisa Alvarez

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