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Gangs: John Howard Society of Alberta, 2001

NCJ Number
Date Published
18 pages
This document discusses the characterization of gangs in Canada.
There has been little research into gangs from a Canadian perspective. Characterizations and descriptions of gangs tend to be a reflection of the sources reporting them. Media, law enforcement, academic and research, government, and community perspectives interpret the gang phenomenon according to their role in society. Responses from media, law enforcement, government, community, and individuals tend to be reactive to gangs. Governments respond by funneling money into law enforcement services and enforcing harsher penalties against individuals involved in gangs. Improved responses to gang related crime is necessary. Suggested responses include improved communication and coordination among law enforcement and community groups. This could help control gang activity, improve access to information so that law enforcement and community groups can obtain a more accurate picture of how the gang phenomenon is evolving. Taking high-risk youth seriously, especially at earlier ages, is important because it could help prevent future or further gang involvement. The process of leaving a gang is a very difficult choice to make. Youth at risk require a strong support network and skills to help them build a mainstream life and regain their identities outside of a gang. Further research into what could effectively keep individuals from returning to gangs is needed. A more accurate understanding of the gang situation, including the risk factors that lead individuals to join gangs, may reduce discrimination against youth and ethnic minorities. Targeted outreach programs, such as The Boys and Girls Club of America, appear to have the greatest success among social and community programming initiatives. It is difficult to speculate as to the extent to which gangs are present in Canada. General impressions of gangs are abstract and enigmatic, which results in a concerned and fearful public. As research in this field expands, social and community programs will be better equipped to work with individuals involved in gang life. 23 references