The 111 Files: Gang members need a window of hope

By Bruce Horne

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Inspector Bruce Horne.
Inspector Bruce Horne.

Last week I issued a challenge, suggesting that living in community involves having some responsibilities to one another; and that one of those responsibilities is thinking about how we might encourage more men to leave the bullying, violent and destructive lifestyle that is inherent to gang membership.

I finished by suggesting a couple of things that might be keys to solving this problem: helping people to imagine a better future and inspiring hope.

A couple of years ago I was talking to a woman who had been in a long-term relationship with a man who belonged to a gang. She told me that she had recently heard her partner telling her 16-year-old son not to join the gang; and not to live the life that he had lived.

Apparently he spoke quite passionately about all the grief and heartache and regrets that he had as a result of his gangster lifestyle. Her son responded by asking a very confronting question, "But if it's so bad, why are you still there?"

There are a number of difficulties that confront gang members who want to leave. Perhaps one of the most challenging is imagining a life outside of a culture they have come to see as their identity.

Which explains, in part, the words of the conflicted father who told his son to take a different road to the one he remains committed to. CS Lewis put it this way: "like a child who wants to continue making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine a vacation by the sea".

Recently I had the pleasure of talking to Jacob Kajavala. He is the managing director of a timber company in Kawerau and has spent the last four or five years working on the culture of his company. It's a great story - one that is full of hope and optimism. It also highlights the amazing things that can be achieved when someone dares to hope for a vision of a better future, and then goes about finding ways to make that hope a reality.

For Jacob and his team, the journey began with conversations. Conversations about the culture they wanted their workplace to be characterised by.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they came up with the things that pretty much everyone wants; a sense of community and belonging, integrity and respect.

Some people were even brave enough to say "love". A culture of love in a logging company. Who would have thought? It's got me thinking though.

Inspector Bruce Horne is the Rotorua police Area Commander.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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