It is a scenario of nightmarish quality. An unsuspecting innocent individual has taken a short cut to get home late at night and is confronted by a group of individuals on a back street. However, this is no ordinary group of young men and women. This group is what is commonly called a street gang. Usually associated with poorer urban areas of the United States, street gangs have made a huge impact in Canadian Cities. Known for criminal acts such as robbery, assault and even murder, street gangs in Canadian cities have become phenomenon with many varied definitions and potential causes. In the pages to follow many theories for the presence Canadian street gangs will be discussed, and many systems and organizations that are trying to solve this growing problem will be looked at. Street gangs are a problem that have infiltrated the streets of Canadian cities and are wreaking havoc on our nation. Through the help and cooperation of the government, and citizen and interest groups, this problem can perhaps one day be driven from our streets.
On October 24th 2000, a news article headline read, “Gang wars Leave 6 Dead”. However, this was not a U.S. newspaper, and these crimes did not occur south of the border. The article was in the Toronto Star and the crimes in question had taken place in North Etobicoke. The article contains sentences like “Six victims in Six months” and “calculated executions”. It also contains terms like “Bloods” and “Crips”. These terms and sentences have officially crossed the border and have become all too familiar in major Canadian urban centers.
For example, Lil’Z knows that he does not have the ability to live a life as the people outside the slum are living; he is aware that he does not have the ability to achieve, principally, the monetary success and standard of society maybe because of his lack of education and the violent environment in which he lives in. Thus, he decides to accompany the Tender Trio and rub the motel with them in ...
In Metropolitan Toronto there are over 30 documented street gang organizations including gangs like The L.A. Boys, The Latin Locos, and the Parkside Crips. However, street gang presence is not only found in a city as large as Toronto. In smaller areas like Brampton, Ontario, there are over 5 documented organizations, like the No Loves, The Crips, and the Punjabi Mafia.
There are many theories as to why gangs begin and how they have flourished in Canadian cities. The most reasonable of the theories is that gangs stem from greater socio-economic factors present in many Canadian cities. Youths join gangs for reasons of security and belonging. Many gang members come from families where these characteristics are not present, and so the youths must go outside their immediate family to find them. Furthermore, the glamorization of gangs portrayed by different sectors of the media, particularly the movie and music industry, give youths a false image of this life. In his essay “Common characteristics of Gangs”, Greg Etter Sr. labels gangs as New Urban Tribes that claim land, have their own internal organizations, make their own rules, conduct rites of passage, operate in the common interest, & identify themselves as a people separate from the rest of society. The characteristics and roots of the modern street gang mirror those of its predecessors. The same socio-economic factors that are the bedrock for modern gangs are the same reasons that the Italian mob began in the U.S. and the predominant number of gangs in economically sub-standard areas of Los Angeles, like housing projects.
In Toronto, observers have seen a rapid growth of gang activity in poorer areas of the city, such as the Regent park housing project and the Parkdale Housing project, both of which have been compared to the gang warfare-torn streets of Compton, California.
Many theorists believe that the availability of dangerous weapons, namely firearms, are a critical reason for the emergence of street gangs and gang related violence in Canadian cities:
While youth violence has always been a critical part of delinquency, the modern epidemic is marked by high rates of gun violence. Urban adolescents possess & carry guns on a large scale; guns are often at the scene of youth violence & are often used. They play a central role in initiating, sustaining, & elevating the epidemic of youth violence. The demand for guns among youth was fueled by an “ecology of danger,” comprising street gangs, expanding drug markets with high intrinsic levels of violence, high rates of adult violence & fatalities, & cultural styles of gun possession & carrying. Guns became symbols of respect, power, identity, & manhood to a generation of youth, in addition to having strategic value for survival. The relationship between guns & youth violence is complex. The effects of guns are mediated by structural factors that increase the youth demand for guns, the available supply, & culture & scripts that teach kids lethal ways to use guns.
Abstract Youth violence and its continuing growth as an epidemic seems to greatly impact and influence the increasing numbers of gang membership in cities and states. Without proper suppression of this epidemic, at risk youth are at greater risk of committing violent crimes and beginning affiliations with gangs or becoming active gang members themselves. There is myriad of reasons for the link ...
Of course, however, firearms play more of a role south of the border on account of the more relaxed gun control laws. Though, by observing the gang related violence in a city like Toronto, it is obvious that firearms are becoming more present on Canadian soil.
One aspect of street gangs in Canadian cities, especially Montreal and Toronto, is the international implications of street gangs that have become ever more present in the past few years. Specifically, recent studies have found that many ethnically Tamil street gangs have been funding the LTTE in Sri Lanka, which is in turn responsible for a great deal of large scale terrorism in that country . One of the most important implications of these findings is that street gangs are greatly underestimated in areas of organization. In a paper by Sudhir Alladi Ventakesh, the author outlines some points about the organization of street gangs and how they eventually move into more organized criminal activities:
The process by which a street gang turned toward systematic involvement in drug economies is discussed as one of corporatization, in which entrepreneurial gangs begin to differentiate themselves from those more interested in defending turf. However, it is argued that the particular process of gang corporatization in this community cannot be reduced to its economic dimensions. Rather, the establishment of relations with tenant leaders, building empathy from residents, & participating in nondelinquent social activities were instrumental in allowing a gang to maintain its economic superiority & control over drug distribution in the community. Thus, noneconomic motivations mix with economic ones in the push toward corporatization.
Through out history, sociologists have conjured different perspectives on society and social behavior, and from these observations sociological theories have been established. This paper will be focusing on one of these theories, which is the symbolic interactionist perspective. According to symbolic interactionist perspectives, society is the sum of the interactions of individuals and groups ( ...
These Tamil street gangs show that Canadian street gangs are not simply oriented around small-scale violence and protection, and that the agendas of these groups not only deal with domestic problems such as drugs and inner city violence, but international problems such as terrorism and ethnic conflict.
In one Toronto Star interview with Rob Levine, a former Law professor who currently heads a youth center in Los Angeles, states that “proper action now will prevent a large scale dilemma later on” . He goes on to state that Toronto is a ripe market for gang activity and that it will continue to grow unless proper action is taken. In a recent Globe and Mail article, the columnist outlines a proposed legislation for tougher gang laws. The proposed bill states that leaders of gangs can face life sentences, the number of people needed to constitute a gang would drop from five to three, and that undercover police officers would have new rights that would allow them to break the law in order to further their investigations. Although this legislation is geared more to stopping the rapid and dangerous growth of biker gangs, especially in Montreal, it can also be applied to street level gangs. A section of the bill that outlines this fact is the amendment to the current description of a gang being five or more people.
There are many theories on the topic of stopping gang violence. Tougher youth offender laws would certainly deter street level violence. Also, as Rob Levine states in the Toronto Star interview, in order to prevent gang entrance by “borderline” youths, the most preyed upon by gangs, schools need to be teaching the anti-gang message as early as grade three. Furthermore there need to be more youth centers in Canadian cities where students can spend time after school. Lastly he states that children, especially those in the inner city and poorer areas, must be aware that they have choices, and that their lives have not already been prescribed for them.
Although Toronto, and Canada in general, has been prescribed as a “ripe market for gangs” , statistics show that crime among youths has gradually dropped over the past few years (See FigureA).
Most of the cities around the world are facing a serious problem in the present, which is the youth crime. Youth crime does not affect only the person who involved but also the victims of the crimes. This will also affect the individuals themselves for their whole life since the crime record will not be eliminated. However, in order to solve the problem, it is necessary to find out the main causes ...
These statistics show an excellent and encouraging trend in youth crime in Canada that will hopefully continue. There are many factors contributing to this statistical trend. As discussed earlier, the government has realized that gang related crime in Canada is a problem, and they are taking measures to control it. The police have assigned special divisions to attack the problem of street gang crime. For example, the Street Crime Unit of the Toronto 42nd division is dedicated to tackling the problem of youth gangs in the city. The Unit’s prescribed tasks are to be an integral part of the Community Response Unit, working in partnership with front line personnel, school liaison and other components of the Community Response Unit and to be responsible for monitoring and gathering intelligence relating to gang activity as well as dissemination of this information within the service. Furthermore, Street Crime officers are responsible for investigating youth crime in relation to violence and continue enforcement with specific attention to youth gangs, and Street Crime officers will continue a pro-active educational approach and be responsible for presentations in the schools and to community groups regarding victimization, youth violence, gang involvement and other relevant issues. Special units like the Street Crime Unit of the Toronto 42nd division are taking the necessary steps to stop street gangs in their tracks and make a Canadian City like Toronto a safer place.
A city like Toronto has taken many steps towards stopping gang violence. Task Forces have been created, and extra funding has been given to the Police to form other special units. On a National level, on December 10th, 1999 the Solicitor General of Canada and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada held the National Forum on Youth Gangs where a forum of 120 participants representing different organizations made there recommendations to the government.
Even though there are so many people trying to stop this ever so present problem in Canadian cities, still children are joining gangs everyday. There are many reasons that youths give to join this street gangs namely, the socio-economic problems discussed at the beginning of this paper. In an essay by Jeffrey Hagan, the author comments on research that he did about gangs in the community stating that “the data indicated that respondents felt that basic freedom of movement was curtailed in the community; students were not proud of street gangs but feared their presence, especially since almost one-fifth of the students had been the victim’s of gang crime.” However, there are also many other reasons, like lack of identity, low parental involvement, lack of other things to take part in, like sports, security, money, a sense of belonging and finally peer pressure. There are many signs that a child may have entered a gang like drastic stylistic changes in clothing, wearing one color particularly often, a decline in grades and/or school attendance, unexplained money or possessions, tattoos affiliated with a group, and finally the appearance of graffiti on personal belongings. Although these reasons and symptoms may seem a bit stereotypical, they are unfortunately true.
ABSTRACT Child abuse clearly has a negative impact on children and can result in behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and developmental difficulties. This may lead to greater difficulties later in life that will extend into adulthood. The use of proper investigation techniques and appropriate handling of cases, however, can result in less traumatization for child abuse victims. I. Introduction ...
Although parents may feel helpless in stopping their children from joining gangs, especially if they come from a community where gangs run rampant, there are many precautions that can be taken. Parents should always know their child’s friends, establish clear guidelines at an early age in reference to behaviour, respect your child’s feelings and try to involve them in community programs such as sports. One very important step that a parent can take is to screen movies and television shows that a child watches and the music that they listen to. For some incredible reason, the street gang life has been glamorized by Hollywood in trying to appeal to a younger generation, and some of the music that is available today is dangerous on so many social and psychological levels yet is ending up in the hands of children. However, if a child has already become affiliated with a street gang, there are many agencies that can help to both get them out and change their lives by putting them back on track.
A street child is a young person, under the age of fifteen, who lives and sleeps in the streets, whose family ties are broken and who can't or won't return home. Street children live in the streets without their families. Each child has to learn how to survive alone, since no adult takes responsibility of them. Often they are very young and completely ignored by their families. These children ...
In closing, street gangs have become an all too present phenomenon in Canadian cities. Their growth can be attributed to so many factors, social, economic, movies and television… the list goes on. Canadian citizens must be enlightened to the fact that these organizations are not just committing small-scale crimes. Street gangs have infiltrated the lives of so many and caused so much harm that a greater deal of attention must be paid to this problem. Not only are they committing crimes, stealing, poisoning our children and our streets with drugs, funding terrorism in foreign countries, and making our streets unsafe to walk, they are killing the sons and daughters of a great nation.
Etter, Gregg W, Sr., Common Characteristics of Gangs: Examining the Cultures of New Urban Tribes, (Journal of Gang Research, 1998, 5, 2, winter, 19-33. Kansas Newmann Coll, Wichita)
Fagan, Jeffrey, Guns, Youth Violence, and Social Identity in Inner Cities. (Crime and Justice, 1998, 24, 105-188. Center Violence Research & Prevention, Columbia U, New York, NY)
Hazelhurst, Kayleen. “Gangs and Youth Subcultures”. (Transaction Pub. New Brunswick, 1998)
Plebanski, David James. “Robin Hood or ‘Robbin’ the Hood? The Cognitive Convergence of Gang Impact on the Perceptions and Experiences of High School Students.” (Dissertation Abstracts International, 1999, 60, 2, Aug, 554-A. Loyola U, Chicago.)
Ventakesh, Sudhir Alladi. The social Organization of Street Gang activity in an Urban ghetto. (American Journal of Sociology, 1997, 103, 1, July, 82-111. Society Fellows Harvard U, Cambridge MA)
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The Toronto Star, Beyond 2000: Toronto a ripe market for gangs. Jennifer Quinn. http://king.thestar.com/thestar/editorial/beyond/1999/990322NEW01_CI-GANG22.html
Press Release from High Commission of Sri Lanka, Ottawa. March 27th, 2000. http://www.lanka.net/fm/press/27th_march_2000.html
The Globe and Mail April 6th, 2001. “Tougher Gang Law may Mean Life Terms”. Daniel Leblanc. P. A4
The Star.Com. “Gang Wars Leave Six Dead”. Michelle Sheppard. Oct. 24th, 2000. http://www.torstar.com/thestar/back_issues/ED20001024/news/20001024NEW01b_CI-SHOOT24.html
42 Division, Street Crime Unit. Rick Richardson. Last Updated March 23rd, 2001. http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/d42/scu.html
Yablonski, Lewis. “The Violent Gang”. (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1963)