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Graffiti, Gangs, And (Your) Teen(s)

While walking through a neighborhood recently, I noticed some graffiti writing in the middle of the street. I immediately thought to myself, “wow, do people STILL draw graffiti these days”?… Now this particular neighborhood was “nice”, “quiet”, and everyone pretty much kept to themselves. “So”, I thought to myself, “WHY would someone(s) purposely target a street in an area like this?… unless, there is more to the story here.

Upon a little further research, I discovered that this may have been left-behind traces of an unruly group. This made me wonder if this could have been some type of gang-like activity (sometimes I am a little naive to things that are outside of ‘my world’). As I continued to ponder on this, it made me realize that our teens are becoming more and more involved in troublesome behaviors and self-destructive affiliations.

My mother always said that life is FULL of C-H-O-I-C-E-S.

The current events in the news show young men (and women) spending countless years that equal MORE than the REST of their lives behind bars, because of the choices they made previously to join a gang. It saddens me to think that they will NEVER have the chance to re-consider their actions again.

On my way home, I came up with my own list of reasons why we are losing our kids to “the streets”, and violent activity. Maybe this list of reasons will reach at least one parent, Youth Leader, or even a teen who may be able to get through to a loved one, a close friend, or someone special to them and help them decide AGAINST joining a gang or making ANY potentially violent/harmful decision(s).

My list of why…

– a sense of belonging. He or she may not feel connected to his or her own family.

– this group may represent the ONLY thing they recognize as a sense of community.

– he or she may be BORED. Having nothing of interest to them to keep them busy, or to positively impact their time

– he or she may be trying to fit in, feel accepted as a part of a larger crowd.

– he or she may be HURTING, and searching for SOMEone who understands them.

– it MAY be a cry for help or attention that they may feel they are not getting at home.

– he or she may have a NEED for an authority-type figure, or someone to look up to in their life.

– he or she may want to be viewed as “cool”, or stand out to their friends.

– his or her environment may not be very positive or productive, so they may choose what is “common” and available to them. Thus, falling into a stereotypical-type scenario.

– he or she may not feel that they have inner leadership instincts, so they may choose to follow the crowd (we were taught to ALWAYS be a leader… NEVER a follower)

– he or she may not be much of an independent thinker, so they allow others (and other things) to influence their mindset and thought process.

I remembered reading an article in a Teen Voices Magazine on the realities of gang-life, and how a young 16-year old girl shared her story of how and why she joined a gang. Her story was very insiteful, and REAL. She mentioned that she was searching, trying to fill her need for someone to show her affection, and that they loved and cared for her. She wanted to be accepted, protected, and respected. She understood that many kids join gangs; believing that selling drugs, etc. would eventually fulfill their inner desire for “fancy”cars, and nice(r) clothes. She said that many feel that it is the ONLY way; not realizing the REALity of it all.

Gang violence and acceptance is a part of our society today. This issue is RARELY addressed (until someone is shot, injured, or death occurs as a result). My deepest belief is that the RIGHT decisions can be made in a teen’s life, and it all starts with the RIGHT conversation. So, let’s get talkin’.

Vancouver – Drugs, Gangs and Olympic Games?

Recent Mercer Quality of Living global city rankings showed Vancouver as the greatest city in America. Nevertheless, it has been receiving a lot of completely different attention in the last months. Why?

For the first three months of 2009 alone, Vancouver (2.7 mil inhabitants) has witnessed 45 shootings, 17 of them fatal. Converted per 1 mil citizens, that means 6.3 of them died violently. Compared to Toronto (5.1 mil citizens), there was 11 murders in the same period, which works out at 2.2 violent deaths per 1 mil citizens – almost three times less!

Gangs, other gangs, police and citizens

10 years ago, there were only 10 times less active gangs in Vancouver than these days. Speaking in specific figures, it is over 100 gangs active in Vancouver these days! Moreover, there are three main circumstances that are not helping the situation at all: 1) the gangs’ organization is mostly quite bad, 2) they can acquire weapons without any remarkable effort, and 3) the member base of the gangs is formed of very young draftees.

Today, we can notice a parallel fight in Vancouver and its streets. One of them being naturally between the gangs themselves. The gangs are at each other’s throats since the price of cocaine from Mexico has increased. In the recent past, the cocaine price has shot from $23,300/kg up to almost $39,000/kg, this being caused by the project against drug cartels led by the Mexican administration.

Now you might be asking why the connection between Vancouver and drugs is so strong. In order to reply to this inquiry, we have to remember several facts: the city administration has traditionally very relaxed policies, Vancouver is in a perfect region for drug business, and it has large surroundings where only few people live. So the drug-related business and crime has very good climate here. We could hardly find another Canadian city with such perfect configuration of these characteristics.

And yet the city of Vancouver has fewer policemen per head of population than any other great Canadian city. Moreover, the regional politicians are suggesting to lower the annual police and court budget by $20 million by 2012. If the metropolitan police had more financial and personal resources in hand, their situation in the war against the gangs would be much better.

Conclusion…?

As professional Vancouver realtor I want to present calm and safe neighborhoods of my town. I am far from pretending that this problem we are facing can be solved by some quick & easy peace recipes. However, it seems apparent to me that the police would need to increase its staff count and budget, not lower it! The city has to be safe and secure again. One, but not the only reason being the Olympic games soon, but mostly because the citizens of Vancouver deserve it. The beginning of the gang problem solution might be a new stern law proposed by the PM Stephen Harper. According to this act, the gang murders would be judged as first-degree and punished with the minimum of 25 years. But we will have to do much more to regenerate Vancouver’s good reputation from the past.

Who Is in Your Gang?

The 1st of August was national Swiss day and to celebrate the occasion, the Swiss embassy and some of the Swiss clubs (yes, there is a yodel club, a fondue club, a Swiss folklore dance club in case you’d like to join one) organised a big get together for all the Swiss living in Sydney.

So I dragged my husband along to check it out, it was easy to convince him, I just needed to promise Swiss chocolate.

Anyway, we got there and it was really interesting to see this Swiss community getting together, proudly carrying their flags, wearing their traditional red yodel shirts, speaking the same language and sharing the same traditions. There was a sense of belonging, one of the core needs people have, the need to belong.

Now, the interesting fact is that you can leverage this need to belong in your business by building a community and invite people to belong.
Think about Apple, Apple is the perfect example for creating a community around their products. They have so many advocates promoting Apple better than anyone, it’s one of the best marketing tools and it’s free. I’ve come across a lot of Apple fans, they are so dedicated that they will try to convert anyone they cross paths with (and yes, they did succeed with me too).

Creating a community around your product or services is very powerful and the benefits can be huge:

Connecting: Having a community around your products and services helps you connect existing clients with prospects. Your ‘gang members’ support each other (Apple fans are helping each other with technical issues in online forums) and share their stories (hopefully about how awesome your product or service is).
This is crucial because it gives your product or service exposure without you doing a thing. People are talking about it and spreading the word for you.

Credibility: Your prospects hear from other clients rather than from a dodgy sales person. It’s a form of social proof to see other people using your services and talking positively about them. Your happy clients do the selling for you.

Getting to Know Your Clients: Creating a gang will help you getting to know your clients better. What do they want? How can you improve your current product or service? Your community will tell you. Having a community allows you to get feedback from people that are actually buying your products and services rather than spending money on focus groups that couldn’t care less.

Launching new services: Your loyal gang will be there for you when you are introducing a new product or service and you might even want to give them an early release or special offer as a reward for their loyalty.

The best and easiest way to build your community is having an outstanding product or service. Your clients will naturally want to be part of your gang. If your product is crap, it will be hard to build a community of supporters. So focussing on giving lots of value and engaging your clients is the best place to start.

To your powerful gang,

Franziska

PS: Thanks for all the great comments about our last article ‘Liberal vs Labor’, we always love receiving feedback.

‘We were born to unite with our fellow men, and to join in community with the human race.’
Cicero

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