Does Reduced Gang Violence Mean Fewer Calgary Gangs?

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Gang violence in Calgary has declined in recent years as the two major gangs in the region were pursued by law enforcement, and as increasingly effective and available social programs helped youths in many at-risk Calgary neighborhoods and families find better alternatives to joining a gang. This is an unquestionable good, for those who might be affiliated with gangs and for Calgary at large: violence helps no one, and doesn't defend justice.

Yet Calgary Police have voiced a concern that gangs are still very active in the city, they've simply gone underground. Though they defend their efforts in dismantling the two most prominent gangs, and acknowledge that gang-related violence has dropped precipitously, they assert that crimes typically associated with gangs—including drug trafficking and other drug-related offences—are now being committed by many smaller groups, and on a quieter basis.

From a defence law perspective, this begs the question: what really is a "gang," and what are the specific problems when it comes to gang-related crimes? If the violence is largely over, what makes a gang-related offence worse than the same crime committed by anyone else?

Defining Gangs in Alberta's Criminal Code

Section 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code defines a gang pretty loosely. Any group of three or more people that "has as one of its main purposes or main activities" the committing or facilitating a crime that could materially benefit the group can be considered a "gang" under the law.

According to an incredibly deliberate reading of the code, three friends who agree to cross a street against the light in order to "benefit" from the saved time could technically be considered a gang, though of course it would be highly unlikely for Calgary Police or Crown prosecutors to apply the law in this circumstance.

Law enforcement agencies and officers do have broader powers when it comes to investigating and pursuing gang-related crimes, though, and it's important for all Calgary citizens to understand when the term "gang" applies. With such a broad definition, many more people can fall under suspicion of gang affiliations and involvement with Calgary gangs, even if they do not do anything otherwise illegal themselves.

This broad definition also makes it easier to understand why Calgary Police say "gangs" have actually grown even while the largest organizations have been all but eliminated, and even as gang violence has dropped to almost zero. Any group of people suspected of carrying out any crime for gain can be considered a gang by law enforcement, no matter how large the group or what crime(s) they're suspected of.

A Defence Lawyer for Those Accused of Calgary Gang Involvement

Don't let broad legal definitions and special powers for the Calgary Police make you feel powerless. If you've been accused of a gang-related crime, or simply the crime of being involved with a gang, you're entitled to speak to an experienced defence lawyer right away. For a free consultation with Calgary criminal defence lawyer Susan Karpa, please contact her office today to make an appointment.

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