Victoria Police chief calls for reinstatement of police liaison program in Greater Victoria schools

CHEK

Victoria’s police chief is pleading with the Greater Victoria School District to reinstate a program he says will curb an increase in gang recruitment in schools.

“I’m respectfully requesting student safety be made a top priority in schools,” said Manak in a meeting Monday night with SD61 board members.

“I’m requesting that the School District 61 board reinstate the School Police Liaison Officer immediately.”

Manak’s request follows a rally outside the district office Monday morning, where parents and families raised awareness of an uptick in gang activity.

“It just makes me feel scared and terrified for students because once they get embedded in a gang, that’s it,” says parent spokesperson Lori Poppe.

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Manak says VicPD arrested a gang member actively recruiting kids near school campuses across Greater Victoria. Kids recruited into gangs often do so unwittingly, lured by the appeal of buying items like clothing or vape pens.

“Gangs have successfully recruited members from SD 61 schools and middle schools to traffic drugs and vape pens, which are illegal for youth to possess,” says Manak.

He also says families of kids recruited for gangs often end up facing extortion and threats of violence.

School District 61 board members unanimously voted to end the program in May and told CHEK News they decided not to issue a statement regarding Manak’s comments.

The Sooke School District maintains their police liaison program and deems it a success.

“To be honest I don’t know what we’d operate without them,” says SD 62 superintendent Paul Block. “I’d say that we don’t have a gang problem in our community and that’s because every ounce of prevention we can find, we are spending on it.”

Rec centres and other public spaces are home to gang information seminars across Greater Victoria, including Saanich.

“A lot of our seminars are completely full,” says Inspector Damian Kowalewich from Saanich PD. “We feel that there’s a need to continue to educate our youth outside of school settings.”

In the meantime, VicPD is ready to act.

“I’m ready to provide officers to this service,” added Manak.

Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

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