I just returned from a presentation offered by the only quadrapalegic police officer in Canada, possibly in all of North America. He works with local police to combat gang activity in Alberta. Most of the information was pretty familiar to me, but it still is vital to know and understand in terms of human trafficking since slavery and drugs are so closely intertwined. Gangs play a HUGE role in the world of slavery. And contrary to public perception, it's not just for sex. Labour trafficking is a major source of revenue for organized crime, in Canada and around the world.
I'll be the first to say it: the picture's a cliche. HA is firmly entrenched in Canadian society on all levels, and (once again contrary to public opinion) many are not bikers with gold teeth. Many are high society professionals: lawyers, accountants, business people, politicians. When people use the term 'organized crime', they mean exactly that: it's organized.
I won't even begin to cover the cartels of Latin and South America, the gangs coming out of Asia and Eastern Europe. Think all you want about images from The Godfather, there are people in the world who live lifestyles in these kinds of international, masterminded gangs — professional thugs and bullies. They have no issues of killing at need (or will) and making a profit off of it through arms deals, drugs and… slavery.
But there are street level gangs too who live to establish their territory and power, deal drugs… and fear. Control is their single greatest weapon. Trafficking fits so nicely into the gang mentality because once you are 'in', there's no getting out unless two things happen: you run or you die. If you run, some gangs will hunt you down and you'll end up dying anyway.
The gang persona has been hyped up on our culture so rapidly and deeply, that youth today equate gang membership with appreciation, acceptance, respect, money and notoreity. But guess what? Just like in any organization, you start at the ground up. As a man, you'll start as a mule — a lowly drug runner. You deal what you're given, you abide by the rules, you obey and if you break the rules… you… will… be…punished. For guys, this usually involved physical assult.
So… the average gangster, for all their tough Tupac veneer… fears their own 'family' because that lure of acceptance is a lie. They fear rival gangs because they pose a threat too. They fear addicts run wild and low on cash who tend to rob newbie gangsters to get their fix, AND they fear the cops. That's a lot of fear. If you're told to deal coke… you deal coke. If you're told to traffick a girl… you traffick a girl. Or you die.
Getting a feel for the gang mindset yet?
For women, we're nothing but tools in a gang. Girls are told they'll have prestige, 'boyfriends', money and respect. But really… they are nothing but mattresses for male gang members. For some, their sole function is to service each male gangster in a particular location. That's not respect. That's not love. That's not freedom. You aren't allowed to leave. You aren't allowed to contact your 'boyfriend' while he's 'on the job', you aren't allowed to talk to your family or old friends and you most certainly aren't allowed out and about whenever you choose. Now what does that sound like to you?
Parents… recruiters target youth between 16-25… people who can drive. Drivers licenses are important. Recruiters don't care about socio-economic status. Just because a kid comes from a low-income family, doesn't mean he's automatically more or less at risk than the kid going to prep school.
Like trafficking, gangs tend to lean towards ethno-centricity although more and more this rule is being bent. If you can prove yourself worthy of a gang's standards, you're in. For guys, this often means being 'jumped in' (beaten) or performing some feat of violence. Girls sometimes have the option of being jumped in, but more often than not are 'sexed in' — sleeping with as many gang members as determined by the higher-ups. If she's judged as able to take it, she's in but she enters the gang with NO respect, not even amongst her family.
If your child or your children's friends are starting to amass wealth that you know they can't afford on their own, that YOU didn't give them and that Grandma didn't give them… if they have a cell phone for which they refuse to give you the number or reserve it for 'specific use only'… if they start sporting tattoos or colours or jewellery that they are absolutely married to as opposed to merely making a fashion statement… you might want to consider speaking to a counselor or law enforcement official in terms of how best to help. These are signs of low-level gang entry.
And once in, it's unbearably hard to leave (though not impossible). But let's speak the truth: we don't want our children involved in gangs AT ALL to begin with, but if it does happen… we want them exiting the lifestyle alive. The myth of dying with respect and honour is a bogus lie.