Gangs and gang activity
The Calgary Police Service works hard to prevent gang-related crime and violence in Calgary, but we need your help.
What is a gang?
A gang is an organization, association, or group of three or more individuals, whether formal or informal, which is involved in criminal activity or suspected criminal activity on a regular basis. Most gangs in Calgary are made up of young adults but even elementary-aged children can be recruited.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Typically, Calgary gangs do not wear uniforms or colors.
- Gangs usually do not have a particular area of the city they call their "turf" - they operate city-wide and in every community.
- Generally, gangs do not "advertise" with graffiti.
- Gangs are usually involved in selling drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy, crystal meth and marijuana. Other crimes may involve credit card skimming, violence and the use of weapons.
- Gangs use violence to enhance their position and reputation to further their criminal enterprises.
Signs of gang involvement
Do you suspect that your child or loved one may be part of a gang? Here are six signs a young person may be involved in a gang:
- They suddenly have large amounts of money, expensive new clothing or material possessions that cannot be explained by known sources of income.
- Their behavior has changed and they have different friends. These friends may be older and have quite different interests than your child.
- They show little or no interest in family activities.
- They begin acting in a paranoid and secretive manner.
- They develop an obsessive interest in violent movies or music.
Preventing gang involvement
It is a parent’s responsibility to ensure their child isn't getting involved with the wrong crowd. Whether you realize it or not, all children can be at risk to join gangs. Gangs are a very real problem in Calgary and your child may be vulnerable to their influence. Children and teens with good skills in dealing with other people are less likely to join gangs or to be involved in negative behaviour.
The most important thing you can do for your child is to make them feel like they belong and are loved and valued by their family. Here are some tips:
- Spend time alone with each child and get to know each other better.
- Make time for your family to play and eat meals together. Develop family traditions, and have family meetings to talk about plans, feelings, and complaints.
- Listen to your children and ask their opinions. Help your children talk with you without fear of punishment. Do not talk down to your children, their thoughts and feelings deserve respect.
- Talk to your children about ways to deal with pressure from friends. For example, if your child is challenged by a peer who says, "If you are my friend, you would..." your child can respond, "If you were my friend, you wouldn't ask." Then, he/she should walk away.
- Set limits with your children and teens. Children and teenagers need to know clearly what is expected of them and the consequences for acting otherwise.
- Learn about gang activity in your area. Talk to your children about the negative things that gangs do, and how they can affect your child, their friends, your neighbourhood, and your family.
- Point out violent messages on television and in movies. Talk to your children about ways they can solve their problems without fighting or violence.
- Get to know your child's friends and their parents. When children start to feel pressure to use drugs or join gangs, it usually comes from their friends.
- Start educating your children at an early age. While five-year-olds may not understand about the effects of joining a gang, they can learn to say "no" to negative behavior.
Building your child's self-confidence and social skills
To build self-confidence and respect for others in their children, focus on the following:
- Honest communication. Children need to learn to express feelings such as anger, joy, love and fear without worrying about being teased or punished.
- Cooperation. Children must learn to cooperate, negotiate, and put themselves in another person's shoes. Praise your children for cooperating and for working out a compromise.
- Personal responsibility. Teach your children to be responsible for their actions. Let them know that even if they do not get something right at first, what counts is that they are trying hard and learning from the experience.
- Ability to give and receive unconditional love. Love your children for who they are, regardless of how well they do in school, sports, or other activities.
If you’re worried that you child might be vulnerable to gang influence, find out more about how to prevent your child from getting involved in a gang.
Getting out of a gang
The Calgary Police Service wants to help people get out of gangs. If you need help, or if you know someone who does, call the Gang Help Line at: 403-428-8191.
You can also find support through other agencies, including our Youth at Risk Development (YARD) program.
Reporting gang activity
Are you worried that a gang may be operating in your community, or that your child, a friend or a loved one is in danger of becoming involved with a gang? Have you seen any suspicious activity?
Call the police by dialing 9-1-1 immediately if you witness a crime in progress.
In a non-emergency situation, please report a crime online or call the non-emergency line at 403-266-1234.
Additional information about gangs
Help for gang members and concerned parents is available from the following groups and agencies:
- Gangs and Youth at Risk Development Program (YARD)
- Kids Help Phone - 1-800-668-6868 - offering free, confidential counseling for youth 24/7.
- Crime Stoppers - 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) - report criminal activity confidentially.
- Calgary Police School Resource Officers - contact your child’s school for more information.
- School counsellors are available to help your child deal with a variety of issues.