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Youth Gangs in Canada

An introduction and statistics regarding youth gangs that function on Canadian soil.

Jason Seward

on 29 April 2010

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Transcript of Youth Gangs in Canada

YOUTH GANGS IN CANADA Youth gangs typically consist of young people who:
-self-identify as a group (e.g. have a group name)
-are generally perceived by others as a distinct group
-are involved in a significant number of delinquent incidents that produce consistent negative responses from the community and/or law enforcement agencies [1].

There are other important characteristics of a youth gang that help us to understand the phenomenon. The Montréal Police Service's definition of youth gang explicitly incorporates the anti-social and delinquent behaviours that are distinctive of youth gangs. It defines 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 [2]."
hat is a Youth Gang?
Who joins Youth Gangs? The 2002 Canadian Police Survey on Youth Gangs and other sources suggest that youth gang members cut across many ethnic, geographic, demographic and socio-economic context. However, youth at risk of joining gangs or already involved in gangs tend to be from groups that suffer from the greatest levels of inequality and social disadvantage.

Aboriginal youth are more vulnerable to gang recruitment and organized crime than non-Aboriginal youth and they are increasing in numbers and influence in Western Canada.
Many youth who join gangs have also been identified as youth who are using drugs and already involved in serious and violent crime. Furthermore, youth who display higher levels of previous delinquency are more likely to remain in the gang.

The reasons for joining a youth gang are various. Some seek excitement; others are looking for prestige, protection, a chance to make money or a sense of belonging.
What is a Youth Gang? Gang Statistics - Canada has 434 youth gangs with roughly 7,000 members nationally. (See Table 2).
- Ontario has the highest number of youth gangs and youth gang members in absolute terms, with 216 youth gangs and 3,320 youth gang members. Saskatchewan is second (28 youth gangs and 1,315 members), followed by British Columbia (102 youth gangs and 1,027 members) [9].
- For the country as a whole, the vast majority of youth gang members are male (94%) [10].
- Almost half (48%) of all youth gang members are under the age of 18. Most (39%) are between 16 and 18 years old [11].
- The largest proportion of youth gang members are African Canadian (25%), followed by First Nations (21%) and Caucasian (18%) [12].
- Police agencies and Aboriginal organizations indicate that there is a growing percentage of female gang membership in western Canadian provinces, including British Columbia (12%), Manitoba (10%) and Saskatchewan (9%) [13].

Gangs, Crime and Violence The movement of gang members from one jurisdiction to another appears to have an impact on the criminal activities and involvement of youth, as does the return of gang-involved youth or adult inmates from correctional facilities.

From a prevention perspective, it is vital to understand that youth involvement in crime and violence is linked with the experience of the gang itself.

In the United States, studies of large urban samples show that youth gang members are responsible for a large proportion of all violent adolescent offences. On average, 20% of gang members were responsible for committing about 80% of all serious violent adolescent offences.

While similar offence data is not available in Canada, a quasi-national study of the criminal careers of a birth cohort found that 16% of alleged young offenders who were classified as chronic offenders were responsible for 58% of all alleged criminal incidents


Gangs, Guns, and Drugs in Schools Gangs, guns and drugs in schools
Gun violence in major cities in Canada has been a growing concern, especially in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Montréal [19].
Gun violence is also more prevalent among street gangs that involve primarily young men less than 30 years of age [20].
The Drugs, Alcohol and Violence International (DAVI) study, a joint Canada-U.S. effort, provides important evidence about the relationships between gangs, guns and drugs in Toronto and Montréal. A total of 904 male students (grades 9 to 12), school dropouts and young offenders were interviewed. The results indicate that:
There is a correlation between gang presence in schools and the availability of both guns and drugs in schools.
18.7% of boys (ages 14 to 17) in Montréal and 15.1% in Toronto have brought a gun to school.
School dropouts who get involved in drug selling are at higher risk of being involved in gun-related violence [21].
Table 1: Comparison of Youth Gangs in Canada and the United States
U.S. (2000) Canada (2001)

Population 281,421,906 30,007,094

Percentage of jurisdictions reporting youth gang activity
40%(US) 23.7%(C)

Estimated number of youth gangs
24,500(US) 434(C)

Estimated number of gang members
772,500(US) 7,071(C)
Density per 1000 population
2.75(US) 0.24(C)

Source: Astwood Strategy Corporation (2004) Table 2: Estimated Number of Youth Gangs and Youth Gang Members, Nationally and by Province, 2002
Area Number of Youth Gangs Number of Youth Gang Members Youth Gang Members per 1,000 pop.
Canada 434 7071 0.24
British Columbia 102 1027 0.26
Alberta 42 668 0.22
Saskatchewan 28 1315 1.34
Manitoba 15 171 0.15
Ontario 216 3320 0.29
Québec [*] 25 533 0.07
Nova Scotia 6 37 0.04
New Brunswick 0 0 0
Prince Edward Island 0 0 0
NFLD and Labrador 0 0 0
Yukon 0 0 0
Northwest Territories 0 0 0
Nunavut 0 0 0

[*] Notes: Data was collected on only four police agencies in the Province of Québec. As a result, the percentage of jurisdictions reporting active youth gangs in Québec (i.e., 100%) must not be considered representative of the entire province.
Source: Astwood Strategy Corporation (2004) http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/cp/bldngevd/2007-yg-1-eng.aspx
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