Prevention is Better Than Defence: The Real Solution to Calgary Gangs

The Calgary press, and to a large degree the Calgary Police, seem obsessed with the concept of "gangs." There's no doubt that Calgary suffered from a gang problem in the past, and no question that Calgary is better off since the gang violence of the early 2000s has past. But Calgary does not currently suffer a true gang problem, no matter what the police and press say.

And the reason why may surprise you.

If you believe the stories, Calgary is still rife with gang activity. Guns, drugs, and all manner of crimes are said to be evidence of "gang activity", the police say it, and the press repeats it. But these "gangs" are simply loose groups, often family members, who allegedly met more than once for the purpose of committing a crime. That's all it takes to be considered a "gang member" under Calgary law.

But true "gangs" of the type that Calgary saw about a decade ago are a thing of the past, and it's not because of arrests or convictions. It's because gang membership has been significantly reduced by outreach programs like the Calgary Police's own YouthLink program, which helps steer youths at risk for gang affiliation into more productive activities.

It doesn't take fear to defend against gangs in Calgary. All it takes is a little bit of compassion, understanding, and outreach to prevent gangs from ever forming in the first place.

Let's calm down the hype, Calgary, and bring back the heart.