The Economics of Calgary's Gangs

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Many in law enforcement and Calgary at large view gangs as simple bands of ne'er-do-wells who have selected a life of hardscrabble crime and isolation rather than joining the bigger community. Anyone who has studied the issue, including any experienced Calgary criminal defence lawyer, knows that the factors affecting gangs are far more complex. Most gang members feel ostracized and isolated from society before they join gangs, and the gang itself fills the needs that would normally be filled by society, including a sense of self-worth, an occupation, and position of respect in the community.

This was unquestionably the case with the gangs that made parts of Calgary a battleground less than a decade ago. Comprised largely of first- and second-generation immigrants who experienced difficulty assimilating into Calgary's culture, these gangs were fueled by their sense of distance from society at large and by one other major factor: the economic opportunity created by the criminalization of drugs.

And though Calgary's gangs of yesteryear have disappeared, the same issues are continuing to drive gang activity in the city.

New Calgary Gangs, Same Old Drug Offence Stories

Because gangs provide their members with the social roles they felt were unavailable to them in society at large, they need to be complete communities in and of themselves. This includes having an economy, and for a group that lives on the fringes of the community and feels largely opposed to the rules of that community, engaging in the transport and sale of controlled substances is a natural way to build that economy. This is true of gangs in calgary and throughout the world; criminalizing drugs doesn't actually eliminate the demand for drugs, and there will always be those willing to risk criminal charges in order to meet that demand.

Currently, Calgary Police and other law enforcement agencies suspect biker gangs have been attracted to calgary's drug trade, and have even suggested that the overall local economy is responsible both for attracting gangs and for contributing to gang violence. Economic growth in past years made the market for controlled substances quite lucrative, and the current economic slowdown has forced the organizations engaged in that trade to become more competitive—and in a market that's illegal to operate, competition often means violence.

Addressing Calgary's gang problems could be as simple as adjusting Calgary's attitude towards drug criminalization, making substance abuse a public health matter rather than a law enforcement issue. Social outreach also proved to be quite effective at steering would-be gang members away from criminal activity and associations; programs such as these help those who feel left out of Calgary's community to become a welcome and productive part of it.

Calgary Gangs Deserve a Compassionate Defence

Regardless of their circumstances or their alleged actions, everyone in a gang in Calgary is entitled to the same protection under the law as any other citizen. If you or a family member has been accused of gang-related activity and you would like a free consultation to better understand your case and your rights, contact Calgary defence lawyer Susan Karpa today

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