By Paul Cowley
Red Deer Advocate
An Alberta government plan to spend $1.2 million getting tough on gangs was welcomed by police in Hobbema, which has been plagued by gang violence.
Justice Minister Alison Redford called the Alberta Gang Reduction Strategy document a “blueprint” for tackling gangs in the province. It sets out 28 targets to dismantle gangs and help youth avoid the temptations of gang life and provide support for gang members trying to get out.
Hobbema RCMP Const. Perry Cardinal is glad to see that the province is focusing on the youth side of the gang problem.
“A lot of times there are these young people who want to get out of the system, the gang life, but there’s no place for them to go,” said Cardinal, who is on the Hobbema-Maskwacis RCMP Community Response Unit that was developed in 2006 to deal with gang problems.
Recently a Hobbema man standing in his living room was struck several times by bullets from a high-powered rifle in what police suspect was a gang-related incident.
The victim, who is not believed to be involved in gangs, was taken to Edmonton for treatment of life-threatening injuries.
Cardinal also likes that the justice system will be used for intervention and not just for punishment.
It can be difficult for youngsters involved in gangs to find a safe way out. Moving whole families out of communities to get them away from threaten ing gangs is not a realistic alternative for most.
That’s why it’s so important for those who work with youngsters to make them aware of how big a step they’re taking and the long-term ramifications of becoming part of a gang, he said. Youths may feel they are supported by their fellow gang members, but recruits soon find their newfound friends disappear if they get caught.
“A lot of times we tell kids, ‘You know what, the gangs don’t come to visit you in jail.’”
The minister announced that $786,000 will go to 14 projects or agencies to help youth at risk.
Making more resources available on the enforcement side will also help, said Cardinal. The drug trade and efforts to control it spawn much of the gang-related violence. “That’s what fuels the economy in the gang world, the drug trade.”
The province is also committed to co-ordinating the way various enforcement agencies tackle gang problems by ensuring there is consistency in how gangs are classified and targeted. The province also wants to beef up intelligence sharing capabilities so officers can get information on gangs quickly and at any time.
Not surprisingly, drug traffic is the number 1 business of gangs, but they are also involved in human trafficking, extortion and identity theft.