The following article was submitted by Detective Alex Charles, of the VPD Gang Crime Unit. The Foundation supported this project and it clearly had a profound impact on the youths. We would like to thank Detective Charles and the Gang Crime Unit for their commitment and the time they spend with Vancouver youth because crime prevention starts with our youth.
On Friday September 22, 2017 the first annual “Turning Point” was put on by the VPD Gang Crime Unit (GCU). “Turning Point” was developed by the GCU to be another instrument to divert at-risk youth from a life of gangs and crime. Seven students from Vancouver schools John Oliver and Killarney Secondary who participated in the previous GCU event “Gang Tackle” were invited to attend. “Turning Point” was also a chance for members of the GCU and School Liaison (SL) to reconnect with students and build on relationships that were formed in the spring.
“Turning Point” was to provide the students with a glimpse of what life was like in the Downtown East Side (DTES). The students would be able to witness the effects of substance abuse and speak to the residents of that community. We all would then attend a BC Lions Football game as a bonding experience and get to watch the Lions players that spoke to them earlier in the year at Gang Tackle. The GCU looked into what resources would be required to finance this event. The Vancouver Police Foundation stepped in and provided the necessary funding for the event, and the BC Lions kindly provided tickets to the game.
The students were picked up and taken to the Police Annex on Cordova St where we began walking. GCU members were able to talk to the students about the area as well as answer their questions. The students were eager, engaged and at times shocked with the sounds, sights and smells of the area. Police members talked to them about the area and about the numerous reasons why someone may end up living in the DTES. As we walked residents would continually approach the group to enquire what we were doing. GCU members explained what was happening and people were very encouraging of the students to never end up down there and to stay in school. The DTES resident that was lined up to speak with the students did not show up, but the students were impressed by the honesty of the residents who did stop to talk to them.
We then drove the students over to BC Place Stadium where they were treated to the “Sideline Experience”. The whole Turning Point group was brought to the sideline to watch the BC Lions and Hamilton Tiger Cats warm up. During the warm up, Hamilton coaching staff played catch with the students and invited them onto the field to participate in a “ball strip” drill. This is where the students formed two lines facing each other like a tunnel. The Hamilton ball carrier then runs through the tunnel as the students tried to rip the ball out of his hands. This was one of the many highlights of the evening.
GCU members and students were then taken to their seats and the youth were provided with food, snacks and BC Lions t-shirts which were funded by the Vancouver Police Foundation. We watched an exciting game that the Lions unfortunately lost by one point. At the conclusion of the game the students were driven back to their homes. Before they left they expressed how extremely appreciative they were of the day and everything that they experienced. For the members of GCU and SL it was a wonderful experience to interact with kids that would normally not talk to the Police. One of the young men expressed to a GCU member that attending events such as Gang Tackle and Turning Point made him want to change his life and stay out of trouble. Thanks to the Vancouver Police Foundation for making this event possible and thank you to the BC Lions for the tickets.
We would like to thank VPF Trustee, Doug Hume, for personally sponsoring this project.
If you would like to learn more about Gang Tackle and Turning Point or to make a donation to the Vancouver Police Foundation, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org