The WPS Homicide Unit investigates several gang related murders every year. In 2013, Winnipeg has already recorded two such killings;
- February 15 – William Moar (24)
- April 2 – Nigel Dixon (20)
(The murder of Nigel Dixon remains unsolved)
Both killings had the typical ear marks of a gang related killing, the victims were male, in their early twenties and both were killed with firearms.
Gang related killings can be extremely difficult to solve. These murders often occur in outdoor locations in the middle of the night when few people are present to witness such incidents. These cases are often cracked using low tech investigative approaches that include the use of skilled investigators conducting intense interrogations of gang members or gang associates who may be “in the know.”
That’s precisely how the WPS Homicide Unit solved a recent gang related murder where a young man was gunned down in cold blood in the north end of the City. The investigation revealed the motive for the killing was related to inner City gang rivalries over “turf” and the incessant struggle to corner the market in the lucrative drug trade. The case was blown wide open when one of the investigative teams managed to break one of the “child soldiers” who had intimate knowledge regarding the murder.
The youth provided a video taped statement implicating two (2) hard-core gang members who were responsible for the killing. The fifteen (15) year old “child soldier” has lived in a culture of extreme violence for most of his young life. Everyday violence is the norm in his world and is a tool used by older gang members to intimidate and control him. Everyday violence like being choked, punched, kicked and being burned with cigarettes. A sadistic culture of violence where gang members choke household cats into unconsciousness as a form of entertainment.
High ranking gang members force these “child soldiers” to work the “crack shacks” and encourage them to take part in drug use and engage in high risk sexual behaviours. Despite these disturbing influences, the boy still had enough moral fibre left to do the right thing and provided a statement so that another senseless gang killing might be avoided. After the boy was “debriefed,” it was clear he was in desperate need of a “gang intervention.” An intervention that would have to include intensive addiction and psychological treatment.
Ensuring the boys wellbeing is not just in the boys best interest.
It’s also in the best interests of his family, the Community, Manitoba Justice and the Police.
The Community benefits in that another senseless killing gets solved and two dangerous gang bangers will be taken off the streets. Manitoba Justice and the Police benefit because the boy will provide evidence to convict the accused killers. Without kids like this, Winnipeg murders go unsolved. When Winnipeg murders go unsolved Winnipeg gangsters stay on the streets to kill again. When a gang member gets away with murder he gains street credibility and his bravado exponentially increases. (A factor that increases the likelihood he will participate in subsequent killings.)
As the investigation progressed three (3) other child soldiers, all aged fifteen (15) years old, were converted to important witnesses for the Prosecution.
There is no ambiguity here, the fact these kids cooperated with a Police Investigation created a significant amount of peril for them. They are sure to be targeted by their former “brothers” for crossing that line. The safety of these kids and the success of the Prosecution is entirely dependent on the ability of Law Enforcement & Manitoba Justice to extricate them from their criminal street gang.
The difficulty is, many parents of gang members have addiction issues and street gang affiliations, resources with CFS are stretched and ill prepared to deal with hardcore kids like these, and the witness protection program has complex stringent policies that exclude most applicants.
If you haven’t guessed where I’m going with this, I’m making a case that supports efforts by GAIN (Gang Agency Interaction Network) to develop a Gang Exit Strategy Program.
In my utopian world the problem would be solved with one simple phone call.
I would call 1-800-GANG and connect with the services offered by the 24 / 7 Gang Exit Crisis Intervention Team. On the other end of that phone would be an experienced, fully trained person who is capable of assessing the situation and connecting the child to the appropriate resources. Those resources would include a rapid response team that might include;
- A team of culturally appropriate gang intervention social workers
- A culturally appropriate volunteer sponsor or mentor – preferably an ex-gang member
- A representative from GAIN
The rapid response team would attend the Police Station and take over responsibility for the care of the individual who would be conveyed directly to a 24 hour Safe Gang Exit Crisis Center where the individual would be assessed regarding treatment required in the following areas:
- Drug & Alcohol addiction
- Mental Heath / Emotional Healing
- Professional Counseling Services
- Professional Family Trauma & Counseling Services
- Pier Support
- Cultural Reclamation
- Other areas as identified by key care providers
I foresee a multilayered approach consistent with the way people suffering from severe drug & alcohol addictions are treated. Intensive short or long-term residential treatment programs designed to provide gang members a structured program to exit their gang and become productive contributing members of our society.
The program would be easily accessible to active gang members, parents of gang members, incarcerated gang members or through referrals from service providers like the Police, Justice, Corrections or GAP.
Rather than be known as the Gang and Crime Capital of Canada, the City of Winnipeg has the potential to become leaders in the gang member exit strategy industry.
It’ all about priorities.