Police worried as gangs increasingly target girls for recruitment

Vancouver police Detectives Sandy Avelar and Anisha Parhar spend their week working in the Gang Crime Unit.

But even on their days off, they visit schools to speak to girls and young women about how to avoid getting caught up in the gang lifestyle.

The pair started an advocacy program called Her Time after seeing a gap in services for young women who were being recruited by gangsters.

“We got to see the front-line. A lot of women were being ignored, but they were more heavily involved than we expected,” explained Avelar.

In the past year Her Time has given presentations to 1,500 students in Vancouver and Surrey.

Recently, the two met with Grade Six and Seven students and were surprised at how much they knew about criminal activity in their community.

“These 11 and 12-year-old girls knew about Dial-a-Dope operations, about women being used for sexual purposes. It was quite shocking. It’s sad, but it’s a wake-up call.

The VPD detectives were guest speakers at an anti-gang forum hosted by Wake-Up Surrey on Saturday. Dozens of community groups, educators and police agencies from around Metro Vancouver attended as well as several local, provincial and federal politicians.

B.C. Solicitor Mike Farnsworth said he was surprised to hear about the increasing numbers of girls getting involved with gangs.

“What we’re hearing is that women and girls are being dragged into the gang lifestyle,” he said.

“I think that is very concerning and we want to make sure we are working with communities and the police and have programs in place to address the situation.”

Wake Up Surrey, an anti-crime advocacy group, hopes the forum will help create a resilient society against gang and gun violence.

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