Police in B.C. are offering gangsters who want to clean up their lives free laser surgery to remove their gang tattoos.
The head of the Integrated Gang Task Force says it may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to have tattoos removed, depending on how big they are, but they are willing to pay if it will get people to leave gangs.
Supt. Dan Malo says the allure of the gangster lifestyle must be targeted with out-of-the-box solutions such as this one.
'What's next? Are we going to buy them a new house in a different city' —Scott Hennig, Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesman
"You know a gang member who decides to get out of a gang - that, we can work with. To pull out of the gang, we would look at things like removing their tattoo as a permanent sign they have left the gang," said Malo.
Police in the United States already fund tattoo removal as part of their fight against gangs, said Malo.
Small price to pay
Former gang member Amir Javid, who runs the gang outreach group Real World Truth on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, agrees the tattoo removal cost is a small price to pay to help someone leave a criminal lifestyle behind.
"I believe it is a significant step for gang members to step out and want their old tattoos removed basically as a sign that they are entering into a new phase in their life and leaving behind an old one," said Javid.
"If we don't give them this opportunity, then we are basically probably saying we are willing to pay for your incarceration, but we are not willing to pay for…you to get out of a gang," said Javid.
But Scott Hennig, the spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says removing gang tattoos is a waste of taxpayers' money.
"What's next? Are we going to buy them a new house in a different city so they can live not near where their former gang was?" said Hennig.
"You know, there is limits to what taxpayers can afford and what is reasonable and I think they have crossed the line here in talking about helping them remove their own body art," he said.