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SOC 3750 Lecture Notes - Eastern Canada, The Maritimes, Extortion

Course Code
SOC 3750
Bill O' Grady

of 7
Chapter 11
Hard to say how many gangs there are in Canada for 2 reasons:
1. no commonly accepted definition of a gang
2. levels of funding are in part dependent on how large the gang problem is
hard to get a list of gang names and members because both are always changing
Western Canada has a higher violent crime rate and gang activity than Eastern Canada (due to
pockets of high crime areas like Vancouver - more young men, dropouts, high poverty, drug dealing)
most gangs are based in ethnically marginalized neighborhoods and on reserves
The Maritimes
Nova Scotia roughly 10 gangs
sex trade, prostitution, and trafficking of young women most common
roughly 50 known games (mostly Haitian, Jamaican, or Hispanic-based)
most gangs are in Montreal area
roughly 180 known gangs, 80 in the GTA and 95 in York and other major cities throughout Ontario
handful are criminally sophisticated, highly organized, linked to groups in other parts of Canada
roughly 25 street gangs, majority aboriginal
mainly in Winnipeg area
roughly 20 street gangs, almost all aboriginal
roughly 30 gangs
British Columbia
roughly 30 gangs, most in the lower mainland
very little gang activity, although some Alberta gangs have migrated north due to the lucrative drug
Street Gangs: visible, hard core groups that come together for profit-driven criminal activity and often
severe violence. They use gang related communication rituals and public displays of gang-like attributes
(ex. tattoos)
Canadian model that allows for a general typology that can be applied and adapted to identify specific
types of gangs
Degree of organization in a gang is defined by the following:
the gangs structure and hierarchal nature
the gangs connection to larger, more serious organized crime groups
the sophistication and permanence
the existence of a specific code of conduct or set of formal rules
the gangs initiation practices
the level of integration, cohesion, and solidarity among the gangs members
Characteristics of Street Gang:
almost all youth gang members in Canada belong to street gangs
involved in serious crime and violence- differentiates gangs from non-criminal youth groups
some stability over time, membership is not fluid
typically claim an area/turf which they protect from rival gangs (may be housing project or an area of
drug distribution)
members identify themselves through a common name, symbols, colours, signs, graffiti, clothing
style, bandanas, hats
rely on violent entry and exit rituals to protect the gang from outsiders
marginalize ethnic and racial minorities including aboriginal youth dominate membership. while some
gangs have members mainly from a single ethnic group, an increasing number of multi-ethnic
one key factor that differentiates those who become gang-involved from those who do not is the
experience of severe poverty
drug and alcohol abuse is common
Characteristics of Mid-level Gangs:
can be multi-ethnic (although some groups in the prairie provinces are strictly aboriginals)
members come from different socio-economic backgrounds (aboriginal and African have lived in
extreme poverty)
these gangs are frequently rooted in school, justice, and child-welfare settings- family blood lines and
neighborhoods are important
compared to organized crime groups, mid-level gangs are made up of unstructured smaller groups or
like street gangs, relationships with other groups are fluid and opportunistic- often organized around
lucrative criminal opportunities
these gangs are involved in serious crimes: extortion, kidnapping, drug dealing and smuggling,
homicide, and extreme violence
violence is often initiated in response to perceived threats from other groups, whether real or not
members rely on violent entry and exit rituals to protect the gang from outsiders
mid-level gangs are frequently sophisticated and disciplined
Characteristics of Organized Crime Groups
rare for teens to be involved in these organizations
highly structured and hierarchal, modeled after successful companies
have flourished over time and are recognized, feared, and respected
membership is exclusive and is based on family, race, and ethnicity
they are complex enterprises with rules, by-laws, and constitutions
Who is involved in street gangs?
there is not often ONE leader but the older members have more influence compares to the younger
leaders actively promote and participate in serious criminal activity
leaders are usually mid 20’s to early 30s
leaders are responsible for settling conflict within the gang (usually conflict because of friendships
between members of gang and rival gangs)
wannabees/ posers, followed by new recruits are on the outside at high risk of being victimized but
looking for a sense of belonging and family
Wannabees/ Posers Characteristics
mimic tattoos, hand signals, dress
often use violence to demonstrate worthiness
frequently victimized by legitimate gang members
Primary Activities of Street Gangs
1. Hanging out (food, shelter, partying)
heavy drug and alcohol use
often withdrawal from mainstream social interaction
2. Making profit from serious crime
street gangs generally prey upon communities in which they reside through threats, violence, and
the frequency and seriousness of violence and crime escalate over time, and by intimidating
witnesses to their criminal activities, gang members enhance their status and increase their control over
community residents and rivals
3. Engaging in severe violence
violence within and between gangs is associated with gaining status and reputation
violence often occurs over insignificant stuff that rival gang members see disrespectful
Distinguishing Characteristics of Gangs
1. Hand signals and dress
example are the Crips and the Bloods (Crips use the colour blue, Bloods use the colour red)
some gang related hand signals are similar to non-gang related signals which can cause confusion and
at times victimization
2. Tattoos
most gang members have several tattoos especially if they have spent time in jail, young offenders
facilities, and prison
tattoos represent one or more symbols that the gang has adopted as something unique to represent
the gang
also worn and used for intimidation
violent gangs usually have the name of the gang tattooed in large bold letter
wearing an unauthorized tattoo typically results in the wearer being beaten or killed
crosses between knuckles on both hands are meant to show number of years served in federal
three dots (or cigarette burns) forming a triangle (near thumb, wrist, or eye) stands for ‘mi vida loca’
‘my crazy life’
tear drop near eye means that gang member has killed a rival, has had a member of his or her family
or gang killed, or has served time
Gang Recruitment and Exit