Many teens and young adults know which gangs are active in their neighbourhoods. They see gang members driving expensive cars, wearing expensive clothes, and are inundated with images in the media, movies, and television that propagate many myths about gangs and gangsters


the average gang member who dies doesn’t reach 30 years old

Many teens and young adults know which gangs are active in their neighbourhoods. They see gang members driving expensive cars, wearing expensive clothes, and are inundated with images in the media, movies, and television that propagate many myths about gangs and gangsters.

On the surface it might look like the easiest way to get those things is to join a gang but what are often forgotten or ignored are some of the realities associated to gang life…

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia is your provincial anti-gang unit. It is mandated to take on organized crime and gang violence in British Columbia. Our number one priority is to ensure public safety through well-structured strategies that focus on the disruption of gang and organized crime violence

Myths vs Realties

You'll make lots of money, have expensive cars, lots of stuff and be powerful...

myth-1You’ll either be arrested, injured, or killed and your cars, property, drugs, and money will all be taken away by other gang members or seized by the police when you’re caught. Most gang members don’t ‘own’ anything. They rent where they live and drive leased vehicles in the names of girlfriends or other family members because no bank or leasing company will do business with them.

You'll have plenty of friends and they won't care if you're a gangster.

MYTH-3Your friends won’t want to hang out with you because they don’t want to get shot at, arrested, or identified by the police as being a ‘gang associate’.

You'll live a long and happy life

MYTH-5About 20% of all murders in British Columbia are gang-related and stats show that the average gang member who dies doesn’t reach 30 years old. There have been over 150 gang-motivated murders in B.C. since 2006. In some cases, the victim leaves a wife, girlfriend, and young children and it is often the gangster’s parents who are left to arrange the funeral.

Someone will always have your back and you'll be protected

MYTH-4Gang members are driven by greed and are out for only themselves. We’ve seen many members and associates change allegiances and there have even been cases of murders happening between members of the same gang over what many people would consider trivial things. Gang leaders always take the biggest cut with junior members left to fight for the scraps.

Being a gangster will be exciting

Fear and paranoia will rule your life. You’ll be constantly looking over your shoulder for the police or rival gangsters. Your gang bosses will make you do their dirty work and you’ll take the fall if you’re caught. They don’t want to go to jail and they won’t care if you do because there are others like you who work for them.

You can always get out whenever you want

It is very difficult to leave a gang once you’ve joined. You’ll need help from the police, your family and friends, and others. Your gang leaders will usually make your debts to the gang so high, with the threat of violence if you don’t pay, that it makes it seem impossible to leave. If you do manage to get out, you’ll have to remove or cover up your gang tattoo(s) and any scars or marks from the gang initiation.

Even if you do end up in prison, your gang membership will protect you from physical violence

You will, in fact, likely be subjected to more violence within prison. Rival gang members and other inmates will try and boost their credibility, exact revenge, or simply assault you for the sake of assaulting you.

You'll be respected and feared whenever you go

Your friends and family will be too scared, embarrassed, or ashamed to spend time with you. Many Lower Mainland establishments are members of Bar and Restaurant Watch. In these establishments, with the co-operation of the local police, you will be immediately removed or just simply denied entry. You can also be removed under the provincial and federal legislations. This can become very embarrassing when out for grandma’s birthday dinner at your family’s favourite restaurant.

You'll be able to protect your family from a gang

Other gangsters don’t care where you are or who you are with when they decide to target you. It could be in broad daylight while you’re with your family at the mall or at your home when you’re with your parents. Gangs and gang violence puts everyone, including your loved ones, at risk too.

You'll be free to do whatever you want

You’ll have to do whatever your gang leader wants you to do or you’ll face the consequences. You’ll have no freedom at all if you’re arrested and go to jail…or killed.

Once kids join a gang there's no hope for them

With quick family, school, and police intervention, a youth can leave the gang without any serious consequences. They key is a coordinated and collaborative intervention as soon as some of the warning signs appear. Better yet, everyone needs to work together to prevent youth and young adults from joining gangs.

British Columbia gangs only operate within our province or have a certain turf

B.C. gangsters are highly mobile and conduct their criminal business in communities across the province, Canada, and even internationally. In recent years B.C. gangsters have exported their violence across Canada and even to other countries, with several B.C. gangsters being killed or arrested in countries like the United States, Mexico, and Spain.

Once a gang sets up in a community, it's there for good

Gangs and their associates are present in every community in B.C. but a mobilized community that works with the police and government to stands up to gang and organized crime can make a positive difference. Gangs thrive on being able to instill fear and control a community. Working together, the police and community can end gang crime.

Selling or transporting a little bit of drugs isn't a big deal and my gang will help me set up my business

Generally speaking, the majority of gang and crime-related murders are related directly to drugs. Many transporters, or “mules” as they’re called, and dial-a-dopers find themselves the victims of violence. If you’re not murdered, you’ll be assaulted and ripped off, incur massive debts and be responsible for paying them back, be arrested and have your property seized, and have very little money to show for your criminal activities. You alone are responsible for the creation and management of your illegal networks. This often involves having drugs fronted from already established members who in turn may even secretly rob you and expect you to pay back the money and start over again.

As a gangster girlfriend or wife you'll have everything you want

Even gangster’s girlfriends and wives are the target of violence and retribution. Over the past several years there have been a number of women associated in some way to gangsters murdered, some in front of their children.

Girls and women aren't allowed to join gangs

Girls are joining gangs across Canada and there are many documented reports of them being extremely violent. Girls are often used to hold and/or transport drugs and/or guns because the girls and the gangsters don’t think that the police will stop the girl…they are wrong. Girls in gangs are also more likely than their non-gang peers to have been sexually assaulted.* ** In one study, researchers found that 62 percent of female gang members had been sexually abused or assaulted, and three-fourths said they had been physically abused.***

Every gang is connected to each other and gangs in small towns are a part of big-city gangs

While many communities have gang members that have some affiliation to larger gangs, most small town gangs or criminal groups often mimic or imitate gangs they hear about in the media or through word of mouth. If a community works with the police early on when a criminal group is identified, more often than not local prevention, intervention, and enforcement efforts are successful.

The only way to cure gang membership is to lock up the gang members

Gang members in B.C. come from every socio-economic background and all ethnicities. While racial, ethnic, and gender composition can vary by locality or type of gang, gangs are often as diverse as our communities and many do not restrict who joins as long as they can make money for the gang.

Gangs have formal organization and structure

By and large, few youth gangs evolve into adult criminal organizations and most gangs are loosely structured, with transient membership and easily breached codes of loyalty. With many gang members being arrested or murdered, membership is usually in a constant state of flux with internal competition for leadership roles.

Gangs are only lower-class, ethnic, or male problem

Gang members in B.C. come from every socio-economic background and all ethnicities. While racial, ethnic, and gender composition can vary by locality or type of gang, gangs are often as diverse as our communities and many do not restrict who joins as long as they can make money for the gang.

Gangs are a police problem

Gangs are everyone’s problem. Communities, government, police, educators, and even families and friends of gang members need to commit to work together to end gang crime and the often devastating effects gangs have on our communities. Everyone must work towards a common goal and take a stand against gangs and gang crime for gang prevention to work.

The public is powerless against gangs

Be engaged and part of the solution. If you see something suspicious, whether it’s in a restaurant, mall parking lot, or in an isolated place, please phone 9-1-1 immediately so the police can investigate. Only with a community that cares and stands up to gangs and gang violence will we make a difference so our communities are safer.

End Gang Life – Myths & Realities of Gangs Video Modules Summary

insight into the lives of real people affected by gang violence

The ability to get a glimpse into the mind of a gangster and relive his experiences is not something that many have the opportunity to do. They have lived in the shadows, many have done unspeakable things, but their stories are gripping.

The heartbreak and pain that comes with losing a child to murder is unimaginable for most people. The utter devastation of your child dying due to some bad, misguided choices they or others have made is even more incomprehensible.

For the last year, the CFSEU-BC has been developing a series of short gang prevention and education videos. The End Gang Life: Myths and Realities video modules bring together former gangsters, parents who’ve lost their children because of their child’s involvement in the gang lifestyle, and police officers who have first-hand knowledge of the devastation that gangs have on our communities.

The videos open a window into the lives of people most closely associated to and affected by the gang lifestyle. The stories told are so vivid and enrapturing, with everyone describing the worst days of their lives. They are full of honest and raw emotion. The stories told are universal and can be shown to anyone in any community and still have an impact.

The six part video series is held together with interwoven real-life anecdotes told from the perspective of former gangsters, parents of slain gang members, as well as police officers who have dealt with both the enforcement of gangsters in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia as well as the bloody aftermaths. It is a series of six videos which run anywhere between about 7 and 14 minutes long (total run time for all six is approximately 57 minutes).

Aside from the general public, they are a resource for police agencies, youth, parents, schools, and community groups to watch and incorporate into conversations about gangs, drugs, and crime prevention and education.

“This compelling and groundbreaking piece of work provides never before seen insight into the lives of real people affected by gang violence. The hope is that it will offer a unique resource for our schools and that the message has a profound impact on all of whom it reaches.”

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia worked in collaboration with Odd Squad Productions and Bright Light Studios to put together this sophisticated video project that dispels many of the common myths around gangs.

We encourage you to show these modules, share them, and have an open and honest discussion about the content within them. The people involved in the modules have participated so no other families, friends, or loved ones have to go through what they have gone through.

Myths: You’ll make lots of money and be powerful & Selling a little bit of drugs isn’t a big deal

The first module disputes the myth of having lots of money, fancy cars, power and that transporting a little bit of drugs is no big deal. The basis of the first module is essentially high risk, high reward.

Myths: As a gangster’s girlfriend/wife you’ll have everything you want & Girls and women aren’t allowed to join gangs

The second module focuses specifically on female involvement in gangs. Girls have a role to play too, and they aren’t immune to the violence that accompanies the lifestyle.

Myths: You’ll have plenty of friends and they won’t care if you’re a
gangster & You’ll be respected and feared wherever you go & You can always get out whenever you want

The third module highlights the misconception that gang members will be your friends, people you count on, and that that lifestyle will earn you respect. Gang life is a book that gets judged by its cover. The horrors aren’t revealed until later.

Myths: Someone will always have your back and you’ll be protected & Even if you do end up in prison, your gang will protect you

The fourth module focuses on the belief that a gang is like a brotherhood and support system. The reality of the situation is that you are entirely alone, fighting a losing battle.

Myth: You’ll live a long and happy life

The myth of living a long and happy life is demystified entirely in the fifth module. It is no secret, but many gangsters don’t live past the age of 30.

Myths:  Gang murders are a victimless crime & Gangs are only a lower class, ethnic problem & “No one in ‘my’ family would ever be in a gang”& Once kids join a gang there’s no hope for them

The sixth module serves to eliminate the stigma that surrounds gang life. It is easy to brush it off and say that these people got what they deserved, and that the murder of a gangster is a victimless crime. But there are victims: the parents, spouses, and children who are left behind to suffer.

End Gang Life – Myths & Realities Facilitators Guide


As a facilitator presenting these videos, you are in a position to initiate frank and informative conversations among students while they are in a safe learning environment. For some students, this may present a first opportunity to learn about gang life and ask questions. For others, this may be a familiar topic if friends or family members have previously been impacted by gang-related violence or activity.

We have designed this guide (see below) to help you create an ganging, active learning environment for students who will be watching the videos. The activities and questions included in this Facilitators Guide encourage students to express their perspectives and apply those perspectives to the choices they may be making or to those choices that other individuals in their lives may be making.

To view or download the Facilitators Guide click on the image below (16.9 MB)

End Gang Life - Myth and Realities Facilitators Guide-1

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For media inquiries please contact

CFSEU-BC Media Relations Officer: Sergeant Brenda Winpenny

Desk: 778-290-4677

Mobile: 604-838-6800

Phone: 778.290.2040
Fax: 778.290.6101
14200 Green Timbers Way
Surrey, BC V3T 6P3