Gang and Drug Related Violence Spike in Calgary

A spate of recent shootings in northeast Calgary can be linked to groups involved in feuds over the drug trade, according to Calgary Police.

Gang violence had largely died down following the introduction of certain widespread social programs engaged in by the Calgary Police, which both steered at-risk youths away from gangs and helped enable investigations that led to several high-profile arrests of gang leaders.

These new disputes appear to be taking place between smaller and unnamed criminal organizations, according to police, though under Alberta's gang laws these groups qualify as gangs simply because their members allegedly engage in criminal activities together.

Of particular concern to the Calgary Police is the ease of obtaining guns in Calgary, which investigators believe is fueling more violence than would otherwise be seen.

"We have never before seen this kind of accessibility to and prevalence of guns in our community," said Calgary Police Staff Sgt. Quinn Jacques of the Guns and Gangs Unit. "Disputes over drugs are nothing new, but the use of guns to resolve these disputes has now become the rule instead of the exception. Whether it's during a break-in at a local residence where a registered weapon is stolen, at a smash and grab at a local gun shop, or being smuggled into the country, there is a troubling ease of acquiring guns in Calgary."

These groups appear to be more fragmented and less organized than previous gangs, which might make prevention through social programs more difficult.