Surrey gang forum explores dangers and warning signs of youth in the drug trade

Reformed gangster Jordan Buna had his fair share of “white knuckle moments,” but the scariest of all were during his dial-a-dope days.

The crowd at Monday night’s youth and gang forum at the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey.

The crowd at Monday night’s youth and gang forum at the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey.

SURREY — “I’ve been robbed at needle point before. Not knife point or gun point. Needle point.”

Reformed gangster Jordan Buna had his fair share of “white knuckle moments,” but the scariest of all were during his dial-a-dope days.

Buna (pictured here in a file photo) spoke at a youth and gang forum at the Bell Centre for Performing Arts Monday night and rocked the crowd with his cautionary tale.

From an athletic and smart boy in elementary school, he became a man who trafficked drugs across the country. Like many young men selling drugs today, he began as a dial-a-doper.

“You haven’t felt fear until you’re sitting in a car, locked in a car next to somebody who’s so sick and desperate and addicted to drugs, and then they pull a hypodermic needle out of their arm from under their sleeve and hold it to your neck, dripping in their blood,” Buna said.

“And you haven’t felt shame until you go to the houses to deliver these drugs and the guy meets you at the door and he’s got the laptop, the DVD player, whatever else…. While you’re bargaining with him of what you’re going to take from him that day, you hear a kid cry in the house probably because they’re hungry.”

SEE MORE: From gangster to guide

The forum featured a wide variety of speakers including police, two Surrey students and principals from three Newton high schools.

The message of the night was engagement. Be involved, communicate openly with your kids, teach youth the consequences of their choices, and model positive behaviour, the speakers urged.

A modest crowd of about 80 turned out, in stark contrast to the hundreds that attended a public forum at Tamanawis Secondary last April during the 2015 shooting spree.

The forum delved into why youth are targeted to work in the drug trade. Youth are preyed upon, police said, because they have limited criminal history, aren’t known to police, and their convictions will likely lead to lenient sentences.

Warning signs for parents to watch for include kids not wanting to their bring friends home, having items such as iPads that can’t be accounted for, having multiple phones, running out for quick errands and showing signs of injury or elevated stress.

Police also explained how dial-a-doping works, essentially likening it to “pizza delivery” that’s available 24/7. Drugs delivered include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and they can all be laced with fentanyl.

SEE MORE: B.C. declares fentanyl drug overdose emergency

“There’s something that has to be said tonight and it might not be that popular but this evening reminds me a little bit about parent-teacher nights,” said Paulo Sarmento, principal of LA Matheson Secondary. “The people who are here tonight are like the parents who come out to parent-teacher night – which is the parents of the straight A student.”

Sarmento recalled a meeting with a student and his dad many years ago. “I remember as a school we were trying to explain how his son’s behaviour was very challenging and how he needed help…. The dad almost resented us for bringing this up.”

This boy later ran over and killed another teen. As it turned out, the victim was Buna’s friend – he actually witnessed the death.

“The parents of some of the most challenging kids that we work with need to connect with their kids,” said Sarmento. “We need the courage as a school district and as RCMP and even city officials to try to find a way to connect these parents to our schools.”

Surrey RCMP Asst. Commissioner Bill Fordy urged the entire community to watch for suspicious behaviour.

“Not talking about it is not a solution,” he remarked. “Your kids, they know about dial-a-doping. They likely know the very people who are involved in this activity. We have to talk to our kids about the issue…. Together we need to positively attach our youth to our family, to our schools and to our community.”

Fordy said police had planned to hold such an event later this year, but it was pushed up due to the high number of shootings on Surrey’s streets as “low level” gangs battle over turf. Police say many of those involved are young South Asian youth or men.

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The latest and 34th shooting incident this year happened around 10:30 p.m. last Saturday in the 16000-block of 93rd Avenue in Guildford. Police say no one was hurt in that incident and RCMP are on the lookout for a light coloured SUV seen fleeing the scene.

“Pre-shooting behaviour of the suspects indicates that the house was specifically targeted,” Fordy said and, “this may well be an example of whereby the suspects specifically targeted the wrong location as the occupants are co-operative.”

Fordy said Surrey RCMP will launch a parent support line next week for those who suspect their children are involved in crime.