Gangs Inclusive Community Practices- CJS304 Written Reflection Assignment Submitted by: Vanessa B. Smithers Submitted to: Professor Treisha Hylton Date Submitted: Friday, November 30, 2012 Inclusive Community Practices- CJS304 Written Reflection Assignment Vanessa B. Smithers Gangs/Youth Gangs
The Service de police de la Ville de Montreal (Montreal Police) have defined a youth gang as “An organized group of adolescents and/or young adults who rely on group intimidation and violence, and commit criminal acts in order to gain power and recognition and/or control certain areas of unlawful activity” (Public Safety Canada- National Crime Prevention Centre, 2007).
Youth gangs have become an urban phenomenon and since the mid 1980’s youth gang violence has increased in amplitude and severity, although the crime rate amongst twelve to seventeen year olds has been decreasing. The Canadian Police Survey on Youth Gangs states that youth gangs are a present and growing concern within Canadian communities, but we have not yet reached the magnitude of severity that is present in the United States of America.
According to various Canadian studies, it has been demonstrated that: youth becoming involved in gang related activity are getting younger in age; the level of violence within these groups is rising; that more female youth are joining gangs; school boards are reporting more gang violence within their institutions; school yard bullies are being replaced with groups of youth who perform acts of “swarming”; and that extortion and drug dealing are becoming daily routines in some Canadian communities.
I chose the topic of Gangs/Youth Gangs because it peaks a very high interest for me in regards to my current career as well as my hopes for my future career endeavours. Currently I am a Youth Worker at a shelter for male youth in the downtown Toronto core. Each and every day I encounter a number of youth who have gang involvement or who have previously been involved with gangs, some leading to involvement in the Ontario Justice System. Also, for my current Humber College placement I chose to work at Carleton Village Junior and Senior Sports and Wellness Academy located at Weston Road and St.
Clair Avenue West. Through engagement and interaction with a variety of multi-cultural youth and children, I have learned that there are a number of students within the school who are in contemplation about joining gangs, some whose siblings and parents are involved in gangs, and a number of children who are on a path to becoming involved in gangs in the future. I have always had a fascination and a keen interest in acquiring knowledge as to why people, more specifically, children and youth choose to become active gang members and what in their lives are catalysts and causes them to resort to gang activity.
When I think of the topic of gangs, it brings sadness to me because I am aware that most gang members become involved in gangs during their adolescent years, continuing into their adult years. Although this is a reality for some, through having an abundant amount of experience in working with children, as well as youth with a large amount of potential to be amazing, law abiding citizens, the topic of gangs is something that I feel very passionate about.
The part about gangs that brings the most sadness to me is the fact that there are children who strive to be gang members, children who at the age of seven find the idea of gangs to be a phenomenon. They walk around with red bandanas to represent the “Bloods” and blue bandanas to represent the “Crips” without actually knowing what it is to be in a gang, until they reach an older age and recruit themselves into the gang life. Within the text book “Special Needs Offenders in the Community,” Jeff Rush and Rob Hanser state numerous important points which I will briefly touch on.
The authors say that working with gangs is difficult because individuals deny that there is a gang problem, ignore the problem, and delay a response to the gang issue, also known as the “DID syndrome. The authors also state that the following characteristics are ones that are used in defining a gang: formal organization structure, identifiable leadership, identified within a territory, recurrent interaction and engaging in serious or violent behaviour. Within the text book it also states that prison gangs are referred to as “security threat groups. They mention that most prison gang members were street gang members at one point. The authors extenuate the fact that community collaboration (police and community members) is extremely important in tackling the issue gangs. Unfortunately the book states that gang involvement is usually life-long. The individuals have an abundant amount of forces pushing them to remain within the gang life, undermining most treatment regimens that are assigned to them once they are released from prison.
Drawing from the presentation and the text book, I found most of the information presented important although, the most important ideas in relation to the Community Justice field I found were: the DID syndrome discussed earlier ( denying that there is a gang problem, ignoring the problem when it arises, and delaying a response to the problem), prison gangs, and the various stages of the comprehensive problem-solving model : the scanning stage ( looking for and identifying problems), the analysis stage ( to develop a further understanding of a problem), the response stage (developing response options that are consistent, and implementing the responses), and the assessment stage ( provides useful feedback on how well the response is working). I also felt as if studying the gang’s turf is an important factor for prevention and suppression programs in the city.
Lastly, I felt as if the Gang Exit Program is a very important strategy where there is an assessment and intake, gang member intensive training and personal development and gang member case management. Within a Canadian context, all of the above points are very prevalent. In relation to the DID syndrome, there are many agencies within Canada, more specifically Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, that do not ignore or practice ignorance pertaining to gangs. There are ones that focus on identifying gang related issues and determining an appropriate response. Such agencies and programs consist of: Project Prevention & Intervention, Breaking the Cycle and Operation Springboard. All of these listed agencies try to implement comprehensive problem-solving models, prevention, interventions and gang-exiting strategies.
In regards to prison gangs, correctional facilities take proactive moves towards preventing any prison gangs and they do this through: segregation of prison members who appear to be in the same ‘gang,’ keeping a close eye on the inmates through direct observation and surveillance, acquiring knowledge regarding gangs locally, provincially and country wide, as well as having the skills to pick up on cues that may be identifying key factors of gang activity. During the class’s presentation on Gangs, amongst all the interesting points, there were two that I took a keen interest to. Firstly, it was stated that the last Canadian Police Survey on gangs was in 2002, and it reported that Canada has four hundred and thirty four youth gangs with Ontario ranking the highest and British Columbia next. Ontario has two hundred and sixteen youth gangs with a total of three thousand three hundred and twenty members, almost half (48%) of all youth gang members are under the age of 18 of which (39%) are between 16 and 18 years old. The second one was regarding the Labelling Theory.
Due to stigmas created by media such as newspapers, magazines, movies, books, and music, people have conjured up a set of ideals and norms about races, ages, religions and genders and use these ideals and norms to anticipate how that specific group is going to act. According to the book, ‘Issues and Perspectives on Young Offenders in Canada,’ Franklinn Tanenbaum developed the social-reaction/labelling theory where he states that “once a youth has been identified as having committed a delinquent act, the person becomes the thing he or she is described as being” (p. 38). In conclusion, the topic of gangs is something that sits close to my heart. It is my job as a future Community Justice Worker to not turn a blind eye to gang activity.
In my opinion, it is the role of me, community members, families and caretakers to lay down and model the fundamental building blocks at a young age to ensure our children feel safe, creative, motivated, cared for, respected, heard, not labeled, not judged, powerful, intelligent and self-empowered. With this approach individuals will hopefully not resort to outside means in order to obtain these feelings artificially within gangs. Bibliography (2003). Canadian Police Survey on Youth Gangs. Canada: Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Prepardness. Hanser, J. R. (2007). Gang Members as Special Needs Offenders. In R. D. Hanser, Special Needs Offenders in the Community (pp. 229-243).
New Jersey, United States: Pearson Prentice Hall. (2005). Youth Gangs in Canada: A Preliminary Review of Programs & Services. Calgary, Alberta: Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family. Public Safety Canada- National Crime Prevention Centre. (2007). Youth Gangs in Canada- What do we Know? Canada: Government of Canada. Wynterdyk, J. A. (2005). Issues & Perspectives on Young Offenders in Canada. Canada: Thomson Canada Limited. -------------------------------------------- [ 1 ]. (2003). Canadian Police Survey on Youth Gangs. Canada: Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Prepardness. [ 2 ]. Victims of Violence. (2011, February 28). Gang & Group Violence.