Stories of being able to leave your front door unlocked seem like folklore to New Westminster’s Gunvir Khosa.
The 20-year-old Douglas College student has only heard of those far-off times from his father, when he’d talk about his childhood and feeling safe in his neighbourhood.
“Nowadays you can’t do that — being scared that you might get hit by a bullet,” said Khosa.
Like on Sunday, when 25-year-old Harpreet Chahal was shot dead in a brazen daylight shooting in Abbotsford.
“It’s stuff like that that scares you, but at the same time you’ve got to know when to … take a stand,” said Khosa.
It was an accumulation of such incidents that led the Lower Mainland Sikh community to approach the RCMP six months ago, looking for a way to prevent ongoing gang violence.
On Wednesday their efforts came to fruition as 30 representatives from 11 temples, including Khosa from New Westminster’s Sahib Sukh Sagar temple, met with RCMP and the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit-B.C.(CFSEU-BC) for an anti-gang summit in Chilliwack.
The summit is part of a Kwantlen University research project on local gang violence, led by Dr. Gira Bhatt, director of Acting Together — Community University Research Alliance, which received a federal grant four years ago.
“It’s a local issue, local solution, local community,” Bhatt said. “We cannot import our solutions from California or from England. Our demographics are different, our cultural issues are different.”
The summit marked another step in her research, fielding suggestions from the community.
“There are choices that you can make that will lead you in the right direction,” said Khosa, adding that it was sports and a circle of positive friendships that kept him out of trouble.
Taranjit Singh Dhugga with Surrey’s Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, suggested the solution starts with parenting to keep youth away from drugs and gangs.
Police hope these insights will lead to an action plan to roll out in all communities, because it’s not only a South Asian problem, as most gang-related murder victims in B.C. are Caucasian.
“I feel very optimistic that we’re going to see a best practice come out of this,” said CFSEU-BC Chief Officer Dan Malo. “We cannot look at gang violence as a situation that we can’t conquer.”
The summit came to a close Wednesday evening and Bhatt’s research team is expected to comb through the findings and come up with an action plan.