Desiree Geib/the Gauntlet

Battle for the streets

Calgary's gang war and how not to deal with it

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Just now, people in City Hall and the local media are running along like headless chickens and people on fire. Do they finally feel bad about not plowing the snow off residential streets, causing stress for disabled residents, or are they sad about high taxes? No, they are worrying about the killing sprees and innocent people caught in gang cross­fire, like the New Year's spree in Calgary, which killed an innocent bystander. In actuality, the situation is manageable compared to Toronto or even Mexico, which is involved in a drug war with gangs. Overreacting to the local gang problem by deporting gang members or by setting up security cameras could worsen the situation. A cool-headed atmosphere and City Hall learning from cities who have successfully managed their gang problems is what is required.

If you look carefully, Calgary's gang problem is different from Toronto's, where there is a gang war between the Bloods, Crips and the Gatorz. In Mexico, the government has been struggling against the three main drug cartels, which have been expanding their influence. In north Mexico, cities like Tijuana are virtually lawless and over 346 people have died since the beginning of the year. Stories coming out of there sound more like horror movies-- a drug gangster dissolved around 300 bodies in acid baths for his boss. What about Guatemala and El Salvador? Over 20,000 young people are members of maras (Spanish slang for gangs), even more members than the Guatemalan police force has. The maras are also fuelled by money from drugs and illegal firearms.

Deporting these gang members, as Calgary has done in a few recent cases, poses problems. When the U.S. deported maras members from American jails back to El Salvador and Guatemala, it allowed them to start their gangs anew in poverty-stricken conditions with thousands of frustrated youths looking for power and money. And so the drug trade continued on.

Panicking like it's the end of the world and setting up questionable downtown security cameras are also not good ways to combat gangs. Security cameras may look nice on paper, but attempts to use them to combat gangs in the U.K. have been remarkably unsuccessful. It is much better for the police to treat it like an intelligence war with double agents, educate people about the dangers of being a gang member and avoid dangerous racial profiling. Encourage children to play sports, paint or play music to get them off the streets and out of the reach of the gangs. Hit the gangs in their wallets, seize their vehicles and auction them off, take their drug shipments and encourage drug addicts to get help. Don't attack drug addicts, like America did with its failed War on Drugs, but acknowledge they need help and that the gangs are benefiting from their problems.

There will still be gangs in Calgary because it is a big city with a super-charged economy. As long as there's someone who's losing out in the economy or a community that feels left out, people will continue to form gangs. And as long as there is demand for illegal items, there will be gangs who can profit from black markets. Calgary needs to learn how to fight its growing gang problem by looking at how other cities have succeeded and how they have failed.




Not only does the other articles make the gangsters sound like superstars. They make asian youths who like to wear nice clothes all sound like drug dealers. Making them alienated from other youths, making them more reluctant to join gangs. Your article should be in the newspapers and TV instead of on the internet. The media fails to realize the power they hold over the public. And instead try to sell more papers instead of helping the people feel happy.

The war on gangs has been failing for far longer than the war on drugs. Calgary will only make progress when it starts to understand how to apply family values