When the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) completed its Operation Impact program in 2008, it made a commitment to return to local schools with a progress report on the community’s gang situation.
That follow-up – called Operation Vector – began Sept. 20 and is aimed at students in Grades 9 to 12. Police have so far made the presentation at three of the 12 public and private high schools in the city.
Sgt. Mike Novakowski – the creator and presenter of the “Operation” series – said the idea is to remind students about the lures and dangers of the gang lifestyle and update them on the progress that has been made in tackling gang-related crime.
“We want to show them how it’s not like you wake up one day and you’re a big-time gangster. It’s a series of little choices,” he said.
Operation Impact was launched as a response to the gang-related deaths and violence that plagued the city in 2008 and 2009, when Abbotsford was dubbed “the murder capital of Canada.”
Among those murdered were several young men, including Joseph Randay, 18, and Dilsher Gill, 17 – students of W. J. Mouat Secondary – as well as some young women throughout the Lower Mainland.
Novakowski said Operation Vector reviews some of these deaths and focuses on one in particular – Bobby Digeorgio, 24, whose body was found in a burned-out car in a Gladwin Road raspberry field in August 2009.
The body of his girlfriend, Jessica Illes, 23, was found in the basement suite of an Abbotsford home around the same time. No one has ever been charged with their murders, and police have said the two were believed to be associates of the Bacon brothers and the Red Scorpions gang.
Novakowski, through speaking with Digeorgio’s mom, shares the story of a young man who was a happy child, active in sports. As a teen, he started hanging out with older kids, began smoking pot, dropped out of high school, and was in and out of prison.
Novakowski said Digeorgio’s mom expressed to her son how worried she was about his lifestyle, but he had difficultly breaking away.
Novakowski shares the story, including photos of Digeorgio as a boy, to illustrate the steps that can lead to gang involvement and the tragic consequences that can result.
Operation Vector also reviews the progress the APD and the community have made, including the formation of the gang suppression unit in spring 2010 which has been responsible, in part, for a dramatic drop in gang murders and violence.
For more information on Vector and other programs in the “Operation” series, visit abbypd.ca.