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First Nations police fight gang recruiters with Project NorthStar

The Nishnawbe-Aski Police want to demystify gang life to young people in its communities.

Police officers travel across the north to educate youth how to resist gang life

Nishnawbe-Aski Police are going to teach young people how to say no to gang recruiters. It's called Project NorthStar and it will go to NAPS communities across the north. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

The Nishnawbe-Aski Police want to demystify gang life to young people in its communities.

Police say gangs are taking root and growing in native communities across the north. A criminal intelligence analyst with the police service said young people who are having trouble in school, and at home, are vulnerable to gang recruiters.

The recruiters portray gang life as secure and glamorous but, in reality, that way of life is brutal, Jennifer Duncan said.

“Gang leaders will eventually make you do things that are illegal, and immoral and they don't want to go to jail, but they don't care if you do."

Duncan said a police officer, along with other workers, will travel to communities across the north to deliver a two-hour presentation in which they'll educate and mentor young people to resist gang life.

Called Project NorthStar, the program illustrates how gang recruiters appeal to young people who are in trouble at home and at school.

Duncan said the gangs offer security and acceptance — and downplay negative aspects.

There is a lot of violence involved in the lifestyle, she said.

“Just even to join a gang you have to go through an initiation called a beat-in, where you stand and let the gang members you want to be a part of beat you for anywhere from one to three minutes,” she said.

Gangs in native communities appear to be growing, Duncan noted, and she said they're trying to counteract that trend by reducing the number of teens joining.

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