Youth Gangs

A gang is a structured group of individuals who use intimidation and violence to carry out criminal acts in order to gain power and status or to control certain lucrative activities. A youth gang is “any durable, street-oriented youth group whose involvement in illegal activity is part of its group identity”. Most youth gang members belong to street gangs rather than a criminal business organization. Almost half of youth gangs are multi-ethnic. Often there is an identifiable leader and members display or wear common colors or other insignia. Less than 0.5% of Canada’s youth belong to a gang; most members are male (88%) and nearly half are 17 years of age or younger. Finding group identity, a sense of safety, an opportunity to get ‘easy’ money, or excitement has great appeal for youth. The extent to which youth are willing to obtain these things through illegitimate means is typically higher among those who experience the greatest levels of inequality and social disadvantage within society.

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