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Largest studied schools on the effectiveness of anti-gang messages

Academics are conducting extensive research into whether the message of the campaign to end gang life has any effect.

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For nearly a decade, the state’s anti-gang agency has warned Lower Mainland high school students about the dangers of venturing into the criminal underworld.

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Academics are conducting the first large-scale study of whether the message of the campaign to end gang life has any effect.

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Jennifer Wong of Simon Fraser University’s Criminology Department said: “We want to make sure they are doing something that is effective and that it is actually making a difference and changing attitudes.”

The study will be the largest school-based educational campaign on gang awareness, Sergeant said. Lindsey Horton of the Allied Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU).

Houghton began developing the End Gang Life campaign in 2013. The campaign has grown into her CFSEU’s education and intervention arm and receives permanent funding from the state. He said it was the only program of its kind in Canada, but police have little idea how effective it would be.

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“Over the years, we have shipped thousands of brochures. To date, we have given presentations to over 60,000 students. “We’ve seen it,” Horton said.

Evaluation of the program was set to begin in 2020, but was put on hold as COVID-19 spread statewide and halted learning in schools.

Horton said the Tri-Cities were chosen for the study because of their diverse demographic base, both ethnically and socioeconomically. He added that district managers were “the first to raise their hand.”

An estimated 2,000 students in grades 9 and 10 from Centennial, Terry Fox, Heritage Woods, Pinetree, Port Moody and Ecole Riverside schools will participate in the six-month evaluation.

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Wong said there needs to be a single school district where students have reasonably similar environments.

Poverty has traditionally been a major factor driving gang involvement in other parts of the world, but Wong said the gang landscape in the Lower Mainland is unique.

Horton described the Lower Mainland as having “middle-class gang problems”.

“We’re talking to some of our colleagues and researchers from other parts of North America, and they’re scratching their heads,” Horton said.

“I have had so many conversations with American police officers over the years that I am completely baffled as to why our children are involved in this.

For decades, gang culture in the area wasn’t as neighborhood-based as it was in Chicago, Los Angeles, or even Toronto. It is operated through a “Dial-A-Dope” ring that delivers These delivery services are primarily a way for young people to get involved in gangs, Houghton added, adding that they don’t realize the connection until they’re set up and they’re in debt and have to find a way to pay it off.

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He said the distribution of human trafficking in the Lower Mainland made it difficult to determine where to target education programs, and he admitted they had taken a “shotgun approach”. I was.

“No family or school is immune to this,” Horton said. “The drug trade is very unremarkable. Many people think the Tri-Cities are a bit sleepy place, and while we are not affected by the problems of the big cities, we are.” I have.”

The CFSEU ​​does not have statistics on how many young people are involved in gangs or where recruitment is most common, but there are anecdotes that it generally feels it is on the rise.

“One of the questions I think we and others should ask is ‘why?'”

According to Wong, most of the research on messaging campaigns has been in the field of health, such as studies on the effectiveness of anti-smoking ads. She said that while there is a lot of literature on gangs, not many studies have evaluated the effectiveness of broader media campaigns as a deterrent.

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Over the years, CFSEU ​​has developed various methods to reach the youth of the region, including documentaries, video series and booklets.

Students who wish to participate in the study are randomly selected, given a pre-test survey, presented with a form of message, and then given a post-test survey. The purpose of this study is to assess how effective each strategy is, whether it changes attitudes and behaviors, and whether students retain information.

“Would it make a difference for a former gang member who was himself involved to have a high school student talk about his experience?” Wong said. “Is it more than a uniformed cop giving information about gangs?”

Wong describes the data collection as “intensive,” with about 40 research assistants involved in the process.

Recommendations will be given to the CFSEU ​​at the end of the study and the data will eventually be published in a scientific journal.

Patrick Penner is a reporter for Tri-Cities Dispatch.

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Largest studied schools on the effectiveness of anti-gang messages

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