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Burnaby launches educational video series about gang violence

The campaign is part of a multi-faceted project with $2.9M in funding from Public Safety Canada over four years

As part of its gun and gang violence prevention initiative, the City of Burnaby recently launched a new video series to help raise awareness about the risk factors that cause some young people to join gangs. The five-part series covers diverse topics ranging from myths about gang involvement to girls in gangs. 

3D-printed “ghost guns” in a still from the RCMP video on the topic. Photo: City of Burnaby

The video series is just the latest part of a larger project aimed at addressing risk factors among young people in Burnaby, fostering healthy social connections, and creating direct interventions for youths already involved in high-risk lifestyles. 

According to Dawn Virginillo, crime reduction and intervention manager with the city, Burnaby received $2.9M in funding from Public Safety Canada in July 2023 for a series of projects and initiatives to prevent gun and gang violence. All the funds are meant to be “upstream” and used in prevention activities such as building resilience and community among Burnaby’s youths. 

“Generally speaking, taking an upstream approach tends to be the most effective. So reducing those vulnerabilities for kids, youths and families and increasing resilience tends to be more effective than after they are engaged in the dangerous lifestyle,” Virginillo told the Beacon. 

Burnaby RCMP officer with a 3D printer in a still from the video on ghost guns. Photo: City of Burnaby

Made in collaboration with the Burnaby RCMP, the five videos cover the risk factors that make children interested in joining gangs, especially the lack of social connection and belonging. 

There is one video on “ghost guns,” or homemade 3-D printed firearms, that are both dangerous and illegal. One video is dedicated to girls and women who join gangs, mainly for the glamorous lifestyle and to make more money. The topics of the videos resulted from Virginillo’s discussions with direct youth service providers. 

“They were all things when I asked them what do you wish parents and caregivers knew more about? Those were the areas that many folks mentioned. They wished they could get that message out to parents and caregivers, so that’s what we’re trying to do,” she said.  

The videos are only one of many strategies and projects the city uses to prevent gang involvement among youth. The city also partners with community organizations such as Burnaby Neighbourhood House (BNH) and Purpose Society to provide services directly to at-risk youth and families. 

“They range the gamut from really intensive direct intervention with youth that are somewhat engaged with a risky lifestyle. So there’s direct service intervention, mentoring, life skills, healthy life choices, getting them connected with health services, really intensive one-on-one interventions all the way to the other end of the spectrum to more mentoring, social connections, positive peer groups, life skills,” Virginillo said. “For example, one of our programs with BNH is the youth adventure program where kids get to participate in all sorts of outdoor, fun, upstream recreational activities where they get a chance to develop those social connections.”

Although it has been less than a year since the city got funding to pursue this project, Virginillo is pleased with the results so far. 

“In the first six months from October to March, with our direct service delivery, just over 280 kids and families in Burnaby were supported in this program. That’s not inconsequential for six months,” she said.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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