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Monday, 14 April 2008

Hanging shoes can be a sign of something troubling blood-chilling signs of gangs and drugs

hanging shoes can be a sign of something troubling Once they are pointed out, they are easily noticed: shoes hanging from utility lines.
For some they are little more than an oddity, barely arousing curiosity. For authorities in some cities they are the blood-chilling signs of gangs and drugs, and perhaps that style of covert advertising is creeping into Prince George.
"They are turf markers, in some places. They are a calling card for a drug dealer or a group of drug dealers," said Rick Stewart, research analyst for the RCMP's Drug and Organized Crime Awareness Services.
Have a look around and you'll see them dangling all over the place, and especially, perhaps coincidentally, in neighbourhoods where drug activity is particularly busy.
"It could mean it is a memorial to someone, or it might be a gang sign, it might indicate a place where drugs are sold, or it could be just some people throwing shoes up to see what happens. It could just be a copycat thing; some kids who saw it somewhere and thought it looked cool," Stewart said. "It should spawn questions in your mind and please have that discussion with kids about it. If they are removed and replaced, why are they replaced? You have to peer into those questions."
Perhaps the most common place to see shoes hanging from wires in big clusters is at the skateboard park. While thats fuel the stereotype that kids on skateboards are involved in nasty behaviour, kids at the skate park have a much more mundane explanation.
"It's the retire wire," said Trevor Moore, a 23-year-old avid boarder. "I've got a pair up there. Those have been up there about a year."
"The city cut them down every once in a while but I think they just gave up. They can't control it," said Braedon Olson, 15.
"We blow through shoes in only a few weeks sometimes," said Josh Bennett, 25, who gestures at the heavy friction a skateboarder's shoes endure. "There's my Adidas pair from more than a year ago."
A nearby parent of one of the boarders put some credence back into the drug connection, however. Without hearing any of the prior conversations, she said in passing that "it usually means there's a crackshack nearby, but I don't think that's what it means here (at the skate park)."
Stewart said one way or another, gangs are communicating to those in the market for drugs and they are communicating among themselves about the boundaries of doing business. The language and symbols may be highly evolved, like the Hells Angels patch worn on the backs of B.C.'s most notorious gang. It might be a certain kind of graffiti or clothes worn a certain way. Or it may be spontaneous and crudely thought out if the gangs involved are only small clusters of drug rabble, like the ones police describe as being around Prince George.
All are in the deadly business of hooking people on drugs, stealing and extorting money, sexually exploiting people, and carrying out untold violence, all in order to win power and money.
"This is not new to us," said Prince George RCMP Supt. Dahl Chambers. "You read about it in the newspaper every day, about it happening in our community. It is not a big city problem, it is a Prince George problem."
Stewart said the antidote to gangs is understanding them, trusting that your kids are smart about it and can help you understand what is going on out there in their community, and the obligation of adults to get involved in the subculture of youth - listen to rap music, read graphic novels, familiarize yourself with the popular social websites, look around the stores where they buy their clothes, go hang out where your kids gather with their friends -- so you too can learn the signs.
"Very few people in your community are involved in crime, and fewer still are involve in gangs," Stewart said. "The point I wanted to get across was for people to notice things, explore, ask questions, communicate, because things constantly change; it is always on the move in the gang world."


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