On this 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl, we turn our attention to a powerhouse pair of dedicated and determined female VPD officers who launched a first-of-its-kind program to prevent adolescent and adult women from joining gang life and support females looking to exit gang life.
In 2017 Sergeant Sandy Avelar and Detective Anisha Myette developed the concept and launched Her Time, a program solely for females that they created in response to a visible involvement of young women in gangs and organized crime in Vancouver, around BC, and beyond. Until Her Time launched, there was a lack of resources for females because gang education and prevention programs had been primarily male focused. Sandy and Anisha observed that young women were increasingly being lured into gang life, including getting involved in gang violence and gang tragedies, so they created Her Time to provide young women with a voice and to empower to take control of their lives.In this two-part blog series, we will firstly look closely at the incredible careers of these two women in law enforcement and what inspired to make a difference for women being lured by the flashy lifestyles of gangs. Next week we will share more about the Her Time program and the incredible impact it is having on thousands of girls and women everywhere.
Sergeant Sandy Avelar is in her 25th year with the VPD and has recently returned to the Organized Crime Section-Gang Crime Unit as a Sergeant. She is the first female Sergeant in the Gang Unit in VPD history. Sandy previously completed tours in Patrol, Vice, Youth Services, the Organized Crime Section-Gang Crime Unit (as a Detective Constable), and the Emergency and Operational Planning Unit. She has extensive operational experience and serves as a Tactical Advisor for her agency in the Public Order Group. Sandy has devoted most of her career to youth and gang work and sits on the board of directors for the Boys Club Network.
Sandy also has specialized training from the National Gang Crime Research Center in Chicago in areas such as International and Transnational Gang Problems, Female Gangs, Gang Prevention Skills and Management Skills for Gang Outreach, while also presenting at the Center. She is currently completing graduate school, specializing in gang wives and organized crime.
When we recently asked Sandy for her thoughts on her recent promotion, she was quick to turn the attention to her team in the Organized Crime Section-Gang Crime Unit. “This new role allows me to return to my dream job and help my team members find what drives them to do that very specific, difficult job. Finding their passion in the unit and remembering why they became involved in the unit leads to an invaluable experience that they can reflect on throughout their lives.”
Detective Anisha Myette is entering her 14th year in policing and was recently assigned to the VPD’s Major Crime Section – Homicide Unit, after dedicating years to the Organized Crime Section- Gang Crime Unit. Prior to policing, Anisha worked for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) of British Columbia for five years, within the Covert Intelligence Section. Within the covert intelligence position, Anisha was exposed to multi-million-dollar organized crime files that reached national, cross border and international levels.
She has since focused her career on Organized Crime and Intelligence. Anisha is also well versed in the handling of confidential informants and was the top Female informant handler in the VPD for 2019/2020. Anisha was also the liaison officer for VPD for the End Gang Life Program, an anti-gang program created by CFSEU. She also has specialized training from the National Gang Crime Research Center in Chicago in areas such as International and Transnational Gang Problems, Female Gangs, Gang Prevention Skills and Management Skills for Gang Outreach, while also presenting at the Center.
Despite currently being on maternity leave with her second child, Anisha is still very engaged in Her Time. “Remaining completely involved is very important to me in providing consistency and remaining connected with these girls. I committed to this program with Sandy and while it’s a-lot to juggle at times, it’s extremely important that I stay available.”
I love what I do. Seeing the girls flourish makes it all worth the time & effort.
If you are impressed with the experience and drive of these two incredible police women, you are not alone. In August of 2019, they both received the “International Police Women of the Year” award for Social Change, beating out 67 countries that were nominated. This prestigious award was presented to them in Anchorage, Alaska. They are both also two-time nominees for the RBC Woman of the Year in Social Change Award. And just announced, both Sandy and Anisha will be receiving a Vancouver Police Department Chief Constable’s Commendation.
Both officers have been regarded as subject matter experts with females and organized crime. They’ve assisted in gang modules that were filmed for Safer Schools Together, Post media article of Females and Gangs. They’ve also been asked to present the concept and learnings from their Her Time program all over North America, including at the National Gang Crime Research Center’s annual conference in Chicago, IL, the Gang Conference in San Diego, and for the East Coast Gang Association in Atlantic City.
In the first five years of the program, Sandy and Anisha have reached nearly 10,000 girls and women, recently opened three physical locations to facilitate the program in the Lower Mainland and have a female-focused crisis phone line in the works.
So today, on International Day of the Girl, a day for recognizing the importance of investing in a future that believes in girls’ agency, leadership and potential, please join us in acknowledging these two incredible women and the thousands of girls and women they’ve supported in the last five years.
Stay tuned next week for Part Two, when we take a closer look at the Her Time program and its impact across BC and beyond.