Gang activity has a negative impact on all Alberta communities and puts Albertans at risk. Violence, drug activity, robbery and fraud are all crimes that fund the dangerous and deadly business of street gangs.
A street gang comprises three or more people involved in the commission of one or more serious offences. These types of gangs can be considered the foot-soldiers of organized crime. National or international organized crime networks depend on them to carry out illegal activities at the local level.
While not the biggest players in the organized crime hierarchy, street gangs are often the most violent, fighting other gangs for turf and market share. Street gang violence is not usually targeted towards the general public. In most cases, violence is the result of attempts to settle scores between rival gangs. Although anyone can join a gang, research has shown that some people are more susceptible, including young adult males and those with limited financial resources.
How can you prevent your child from joining a gang?
- Learn the signs of gang involvement. Go to gang awareness meetings in schools, community centres, churches, or other parents’ homes. Involve your children.
- Develop your parenting skills. People often join a gang because it offers attention, protection and other family support they don’t get at home. Children who receive support from their parents are not as likely to join gangs.
- Encourage your child to stay in school. Research shows keeping children in school is one of the best ways to keep them out of trouble. Work with your schools, teachers, guidance counsellors and the parent-teacher association to help your child succeed.
- Help your child be socially and physically active and healthy. By helping your children get involved in activities after school and on weekends, you will help them gain positive experiences, new skills and healthy friendships.
- Get professional help. Substance abuse or drug problems put young people at risk. It is important to get professional help before it is too late. Alberta has a number of addiction and substance abuse services.
What are some warning signs that might indicate your child is involved in a gang?
- Changes in the way they look is one of the first indicators, including tattoos and a dirty or unkempt appearance.
- Other changes, including their behaviour or performance at school, are also clues.
What can you do if you suspect your child is involved in a gang?
- Before you ask a child about gangs, learn as much as you can.
- Talk to your child about your suspicions. Share your worries honestly.
- If you think this might be too much to handle alone, get help. Many resources are available to parents.
- Don’t be afraid to be a strong parent and set standards.
- If other youth are involved, tell their parents. Don’t be surprised if some parents don’t believe their child might be in a gang.
- The best strategy is to call police if you and your child are being intimidated.
What are some possible signs of gang activity in your community?
- The presence or increase of the following can indicate gang activity
- Graffiti and vandalism
- Crime, especially violent offences
- Number of people hanging around in neighbourhoods
- Drug activity
How can you help keep gangs out of your community?
- Start a Citizens Patrol or Neighbourhood Watch program.
- Initiate or support recreational programs that give youth an alternative to gang activity, such as the Cadets or Boys and Girls Clubs.
- Work with local businesses to provide jobs for youth.
- Bring together parents and others who share the challenge of keeping youth out of gangs.
- Start parenting classes or arrange support for parents.
- Take steps to deal with graffiti and vandalism and to make improvements in the neighbourhood.