Experts Say Gangs Becoming More Violent
Two of Toronto's most shocking acts of violence in 2012 appear to have gang ties.
Toronto police are probing gang links to Monday's shooting on Danzig street that killed two people and left more than 20 others injured, with a report suggesting that one of the wounded is a known member of the powerful Galloway Boys gang.
Gang members are also said to be responsible for firing shots in the crowded Eaton Centre food court earlier this year, leaving two dead.
Does Toronto have a gang problem?
"We've had a gang problem in Toronto since the late 1980s," says Dave Perry, a former Toronto police officer and now the CEO of Investigative Solutions Network INC.
"The difference in 2012 is that the gangs have grown (and) clearly with what happened this summer they're not afraid to use violence and are very indiscriminate about it," he says.
It's part of what Perry sees as a "new breed of criminal."
"A heartless killer (that) couldn't care less. These people have no feeling."
He wonders if public shootings could be a "rite of entry" into gangs.
"That's a concern because we're starting to see a bit of a pattern. And I don't believe in coincidence. We're seeing this sudden surge in public shootings and it makes you wonder what's next."
He highlighted the Jane and Finch area as continuing problem with gang-activity in Scarborough spreading now into residential neighbourhoods.
And it's in poor isolated neighbourhoods that the cycle begins.
"The youth who joins a gang tends to be first-generation immigrant, poor, left school when they were very young, have been in conflict with the law, and have been exposed to a variety of traumatic experience in their life," says John Sawdon, Executive Director of Canadian Training Institute and the man behind Break the Cycle (a program that helps gang members get out).
And the influence of powerful gangs in the neighbourhoods that they operate has a certain appeal.
"The gangs run the block," says Perry. "In running the block they have access to children (even recruiting them) and a lot of these children are fatherless. Because they are fatherless they are vulnerable and they don't have anybody else to direct them."
Once they are in, it's tough to get out, but Sawdon's Break the Cycle program bills is one of the most successful in the country and getting gang members out of the lifestyle.
"We spent a lot of time around changing behaviour as well as teaching skills to function differently," he says. "We have one small hope. If we can get somebody who is totally turned off with life and totally hates everyone including themselves, to begin to dream again and dream in a pro-social way then we think we've started to do something.