At the age of 16, Doug was at a party when he met some guys he thought were cool. They had a tough attitude and nobody messed with them — qualities that Doug could relate to, being a tough kid himself.
Pointing at the biggest guy in the room, the guys told Doug to beat him up, then he could be their friend. A fighter since Grade 3, Doug did as he was told and punched the guy hard in the face, knocking him down to the ground.
Shortly after that night, Doug’s new friends started getting him to sell a little bit of marijuana. Seeing he was good at it, he soon graduated onto other drugs like crystal meth. Until then Doug had never worked a day in his life. Suddenly, the teen was making between $8,000 to $9,000 a month, blowing it on whatever fun he could find.
“Party buses, bottles for all of my friends, clothes, haircuts every couple of days. I would buy cars just to crash them,” said Doug, who did not want to use his real name to protect his identity.
Before he realized what was happening, Doug had been recruited into one of Victoria’s gangs. The money was more than he could ever dream of, but life for Doug wasn’t exactly glamorous.
Aside from selling drugs, Doug was also known as an enforcer, using violence he didn’t even know he was capable of doing. Fearing for his safety, Doug began to carry weapons, such as mace, wrenches and hammers whenever he was out in public. At one point, he had a gun and wondered when he would have to use it.
On one occasion, Doug was about to make a drug deal on a random country road when a vehicle rolled up with four guys armed with powerful guns. Doug and his friends were robbed of their drugs. The unexpected encounter left him shaken.
“There’s lots of times where I’d be walking down the road and there would be like six dudes that would say, ‘oh there you are,’” said Doug. “I never really thought about what I was doing. Every single day I did this — just stand on the corner with my buddies, make the money selling drugs…If we ever saw anyone in our territory they were dealt with.”
Doug’s violent gang life lasted for more than a year before he found himself in youth court, facing charges of assault with a weapon and uttering death threats for beating someone up. During his time behind bars, Doug received a visit from his mother, who he hadn’t spoken to for almost a year. He was ashamed to face her.
Facing a minimum sentence of three years behind bars, Doug decided it was time to cut ties with the gang. But leaving wasn’t easy and Doug had to pay thousands of dollars in order to get out.
“It just wasn’t worth it. It might seem cool at the time, but they are just using you, they just want your money and want you to do their dirty work,” said Doug, who’s now on a better path, holding down a job and pursuing a post-secondary education.
Looking back at his life with the gang, he views it as a big waste of time.
“I made a lot of enemies that’s for sure. I still have to be cautious of where I go and who I’m with. It’s a little scary,” he said. “People still associate you with that gang…I caused it, now I’ve got to deal with it.”