Gang Involvement

Calgary has a fairly sophisticated gang presence. In many cases it would be more appropriately referred to as organized crime. Many of those linked to organized crime seldom refer to themselves openly as ‘gang members,’ preferring to remain anonymous to rivals, the public and the police. Those who do identify with a gang name will often try to downplay or deny any criminal involvement. At the lower end of the criminal spectrum there are those who will identify with traditional concepts of being in a gang, this is particularly prevalent with youth.

Some traditional social and economic factors common to gang members:

  • Fractured / troubled home life
  • Seeking a sense of belonging, and someone to look up to
  • Low self-esteem
  • Struggled in school
  • Feel they don’t have access worthy educational and occupational opportunities
  • Are not involved in sports, recreational activities or hobbies
  • Have older siblings, other family members or friends who are associated to gangs
  • See gang life and its associated criminal activity as the path to quick and easy money as well as the respect and power that they perceive comes with it

The final point on money is a key factor in Calgary. Many of Calgary’s past and present gang members did not come from impoverished backgrounds. Many were raised in middle-class homes by caring parents and were well engrained in Canadian culture. In many cases gang members in Calgary started as well raised young adults who, for a variety of non-traditional reasons, became captivated by the idea of gang life and the money and lifestyle that they believed came with it. Most come to learn, often the hard way, that any glamour they associated with gang life was a serious miscalculation on their part, one not easily rectified.

Signs a young person might be involved in a gang:

It’s not unusual for teenagers to start acting differently as they develop a sense of identity and individuality. It is part of growing up. However, when someone becomes involved in a gang there can be extreme changes in their attitudes, lifestyle and behavior, many of which can be difficult to hide. The following patterns are common among young people who have begun to associate and work with gangs:

  • They inexplicably have large sums of money, expensive new clothes or other material possessions that cannot be explained by known sources of income
  • The exhibit changes in behavior and adopt different friends that may be older and that pull your child away from their traditional interests
  • They lose interest in family activities
  • They begin acting paranoid and secretive as they become immersed in a culture of fear
  • They display a loss of self-identity
  • They develop an obsessive interest in violent music, movies, video games and other forms of multimedia

If you would like to have a confidential discussion with a professional about a young person in your life that you are concerned about call our ‘Youth at Risk Development’ (YARD) team at 403-428-8409