Documentary explores cost of gang life

The Gangster Next Store is a new documentary about the human story behind the headlines of Canada’s gang wars. It premiers tonight on CBC Television at 9 p.m.

The hour-long film, directed by Helen Slinger, reveals a new social phenomenon – gangs led by young men raised in the most middle-class of families.

The Gangster Next Store is a new documentary about the human story behind the headlines of Canada’s gang wars. It premiers tonight on CBC Television at 9 p.m.

The hour-long film, directed by Helen Slinger, reveals a new social phenomenon – gangs led by young men raised in the most middle-class of families.

Ground zero in this new war is Vancouver and British Columbia’s lower mainland, including Abbotsford, where gangs have stooped to new lows to win increasingly brazen battles, targeting previously off-limits gangster girlfriends and wives and shattering the lives of innocents.

The Gangster Next Store takes viewers inside the world of young men, with far better options, who somehow find themselves drawn to the dark side. And we’re introduced to perhaps the gangsters’ most powerful opposition – mothers who are determined to save their families and their community.

Film director Helen Slinger built relationships with these insiders.

“It’s easy to stereotype people who somehow get drawn into the gang life, but we found characters that are difficult to dismiss or categorize because they could be any of our children, our brothers and sisters, or ourselves.”

Canada awoke to this new wave of gang violence in the winter of 2008-09 during a period when there was a targeted gangland shooting every six days. The gunfights became increasingly audacious and public, invading residential neighbourhoods and robbing the community of its sense of safety.

Perhaps most disturbing is the baffling new profile of greedy young gangsters who are willing to kill over drug profits. Among recent gang murders or arrest warrants are the sons of a teacher, a banker, a therapist, even a policeman.

Following the CBC premiere, the film will get an additional showing on CBC sister network, CBC News Network, on Friday, March 25 at 10 p.m.