“People have to see that there is high degree of complexity about Belonging to a gang. It’s a symptom not a problem.” (Greg Boyle)
As I was sitting inside a coffee shop reading a news story on a gang related shooting, I glance up and see Sergeant Jag Khosa, a Gang Intervention officer walks in. I quickly put down the newspaper and start walking towards him as my mind floods with millions of questions. Being a journalist, I have interviewed many public figures, but I have never felt so honored and eager to interview a gang investigator who not only believes in service above self but also implements this notion in his everyday life.We have lost so many young lives to gang violence which has deeply impacted our communities. The purpose of this interview with Sergeant Jag Khosa is to learn about his journey and vision as a gang intervention officer and to also educate our readers about various gang prevention and intervention methods so we can collectively save our youth from getting into this negative lifestyle and help those to get out who are already involved.
Sergeant Jag Khosa has been involved in policing for the past 12 years in both B.C. and Alberta; and originally was member of the Organized Crime Agency of British Columbia (OCABC) in 2005, before joining the Edmonton Police Service. He came back to OCABC in 2011. As an OCABC police officer, working within the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit-BC (CFSEU). Sergeant Khosa has been a part of many investigations related to homicides, international drug and weapon trafficking, and other activities of organized crime groups in order to disrupt and suppress gangs and organized crime groups across Canada. In 2016, Sergeant Khosa transitioned into the role of a Gang Intervention officer for CFSEU-BC’s (BC’s Anti- Gang Police). Sergeant Khosa is working on putting a greater emphasis in raising gang awareness in the community by educating parents and youth with knowledge and arming them with the appropriate skills to make our communities a safer place. He believes that it is imperative to spread the message that we as a community can take an active role starting at the preventative stage and no one has to fight this battle alone.
Tell us a bit about the Combined Forces Special Forces Unit-BC? The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia is British Columbia’s “Integrated Anti-Gang Police Agency”. The CFSEU-BC is the largest integrated police program in Canada, made up of members from every police department in B.C., including the RCMP, and are the third largest police ‘force’ in the province with over 400 officers. The CFSEU-BC’s mandate is to target, investigate, prosecute, disrupt, and dismantle the organized crime groups and individuals that pose the highest risk to public safety due to their involvement in gang violence. In 2016 you transitioned into the role of Gang Intervention Officer for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit-BC (CFSEU-BC). What are the tasks associated
with this role? This has been the most exciting, challenging and rewarding role in my career thus far. As CFSEU-BC’s Gang Intervention Officer, I am responsible for providing a combination of community engagement and prevention through gang outreach and proactive intervention across British Columbia. Using highly developed skills in problem solving and mediation, the Gang Intervention Team works to better understand the key determinate of gang violence and works with both internal CFSEU-BC stakeholders and external law enforcement and community partnersto develop and implement community
mobilization, prevention, disruption, and focussed deterrence strategies. The team has the unique ability to identify and intervene in gang-related conflicts before they amplify. If a shooting has occurred, we have the capacity to engage with operational and investigative units, both within the CFSEUBC and the respective agency, to participate in community engagement, focussed deterrence, and investigative strategies.
Our team consists of subject matter experts in conflict mediation and utilize restorative justice techniques to build trust, end gang conflicts, and achieve mutually satisfactory resolutions that are long lasting. Similar to other police collaborations, this role works hand-in-glove with gang investigators and provide assessments, follow-up, and emergency gang intervention to those in need. What are the challenges you face as a Gang Intervention Officer? How do you deal with them? Any new initiatives come with growing pain. CFSEU-BC’s gang intervention initiative is first of its kind in Canada. In its infancy stage we were faced with challenges such as, a gap between the community and the police. Parents were generally afraid of a stigma, which prevented them from contacting us to seek help for their gang involved kids. However, with our continued community based initiatives and enhanced outreach by the Gang Intervention Team, this gap started to narrow down. I must say that the “code of silence” is starting to diminish as more and more parents are
contacting us for help. Despite various forums, interventions and outreach programs organized all around the province, the gang scene still remains existent. What is the reason for this? Measuring prevention and awareness related results have always been tricky. We are doing everything we can to curb the ongoing gang violence on our streets while focusing on long term solutions to this problem. Under CFSEU-BC’s End Gang Life campaign, we continue to educate our youth and parents on dangers of gang lifestyle. To break the cycle of violence, we must focus on prevention. The work we are doing today will show results in coming years. On the enforcement side, CFSEUBC’s mandate is to Target, investigate, prosecute, and disrupt and dismantle the organized crime groups and individuals that pose the highest risk to public safety due to gang violence. Keeping in line with our mandate, we have had many significant successful investigations resulting in seizure of illegal firearms and arrests of high profile gangsters. How can parents, family members and the community help a child stay away from this dangerous, short-lived lifestyle? I strongly suggest parents keep informed of their children’s daily activities, whether it is school or work. Time and time again, children commonly lie about their jobs to their parents. We have come across many cases where drug runners tell their parents that they are helping with their friend’s family business or that they work as a security guard to explain their absence during the day or most of the night. The excuses are endless, but the reality can become quickly obvious if you pay attention as a parent. One indicator that your child may be generating income from an illegal source is unexplained cash. If you witness your child carrying unexplained cash or
find bundles of money in your home, it is in your best interest to ask where it came
from. I am not encouraging parents to become suspicious of their child’s every action or spy on them. Parents also need to trust their children and provide space as necessary during their teenage years so they grow into confident and independent adults. However, it is very important and critical to know your child’s network is and the type of activities or work that they engage in. The ideal way to become aware of various aspects of your child’s life is not to dedicate your time to keeping tabs on what they are doing, but rather letting them come to you, showing them support, and engaging in positive two-way communication. Trust is an essential factor that leads to open communication. It is important to make your child feel safe and important. An active role and awareness is important to prevent your child from falling prey to the lures of gangs and organized crime.
As for the community’s role, I strongly suggest that we should all play a positive role in every kid’s life. Community support groups should offer services that involve youth in a positive and healthy activities in their spare time. It is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child and this saying applies to today’s day and age as well. What tempts youngsters to join gangs? Our research shows that although money, greed, power, peer pressure and pseudo self-respect pushes youth into Gang Life, these are not the only reasons why kids choose to lead a high risk lifestyle.
Lately, we have been digging even deeper
and seeing trauma being a leading cause of
youth leaning towards gang life. Youth traumatized by childhood abuse or witnessing
negative environment at home tend to join
gangs to seek comfort elsewhere. In my experience dealing with youth, I found they could not see or foresee any danger associated with selling drugs. In their minds, being gang members, they held the power and maintained autonomy by carrying cell phones, having their own mode of transportation and by making a quick buck. They often appeared ignorant and oblivious to the fact that in business of gangs and drug trade, the individuals involved are often betrayed and setup by their own friends or eliminated by rival gang members in execution style shootings. Is there a solution to these problems and what are the first steps a parent/family member should take if their child shows signs of being involved in a gang or taking the wrong path?
Prevention, education and awareness is the key to prevent our next generation from getting into gangs. Enforcement also plays a huge role in holding those accountable who pose the highest risk to public safety. However, if we could educate the parents and the young kids about dangers of gang lifestyle that would go long ways in preventing kids from making poor choices. Parents need to educate themselves on the early signs of gang or drug involvement. Once you determine your child may be involved in such criminal activities, the parent or a family member should seek help immediately rather than waiting until it is too late. Lot of parents feel that by admitting their kid’s involvement in gangs would bring their family name in disrepute. We need to step out of the comfort zone and reach out to those who are in a position to offer help. Any parent who is facing such issues, can reach our Gang Intervention Team at 604-897-6023. What would you like to say to those who are currently involved in gang lifestyle? On the surface it might look easy to join
a gang but what are often forgotten or ignored are some of the realities associated to gang life. About 20% of all murders in British Columbia are gang-related and stats show that the average gang member who dies doesn’t reach 25 years old. I would like to encourage these misguided youths to exit gang life before it’s too late. Often times, gang members recruit young kids by selling them lies and once these kids become part of a gang, they start to feel that there is no way out. The realities of gang life are harsh however, there is always
a way out. If you wish to exit this negativelifestyle, you can contact our Gang Exiting Team at 604-897-6023.
For more information on gang prevention, please visit Endganglife.ca
Parent Help Line # 604-897-6023
Prof. Surinder Kochhar (Shaun)
LPN, FCN, M.Com, CAIIB, DIM
A freelance writer with
36 Years Exp.A Diabetes Coach of University of Victoria