Calgary Violence: Gang Wars and Criminal Madness, or Police State Hysteria?

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Calgary Violence: Gang Wars and Criminal Madness, or Police State Hysteria?

Several recent homicides and other violent crimes in Calgary have been making big headlines lately, and are being met with strong words and scary rhetoric by the Calgary Police. There's more hype and hysteria than actual cause for alarm in these situations, though, and the Calgary public would be well advised to remember this when the police and some Calgary politicians begin calling for more limits on our civil liberties.

I've written about this issue before, but it's only getting worse and deserves another mention—if the only voices out there are the ones perpetuating the problem, things will go downhill a whole lot faster and be far more likely to stay there. The latest headline from the CBC reads, "Calgary faces all-out gang war defined by impulsive gun violence," managing to contradict itself even before you get to the article itself.

"All-out war" and "impulsive violence" are pretty much mutually exclusive concepts—you have to choose one or the other (or neither, as the case may be). The reality is that most of the recent shootings have been "gang" related, and have been impulsive and somewhat random, meaning there isn't a war going on at all. There's no real plan, and no organized attempt by one group to wipe out another.

Even the use of the term "gang" is a problem, according to previous statements by the Calgary Police and statements made in this CBC article, as well. In comparing the violence Calgary is witnessing today to the days of gangs like the FOB and FK gangs that dispersed in the past decade, the article notes that "these gangsters are more fluid, sometimes moving among the six to seven groups [identified by police]." Most of the "gang members" are brothers or cousins—they're largely young adults who are related to each other and get involved in the drug trade, then pick up weapons as a result of turf struggles.

It's not a great situation, to be sure, but it's nothing like a "gang war" and for anyone in Calgary not involved in the drug trade it's not even a mild cause for concern.

The fact is, creating an environment of fear enables the police to take on more authority, and to wield their power with less transparency and oversight. The government takes more control over society rather, which means society has less control over the government, and that's a bad thing for anyone in Calgary who likes the notion of freedom.

At a time when Calgary is actually experiencing an incredibly low crime rate and a low homicide rate—low relative to our own history and to comparable world cities—headlines like these should be more startling for their blatant dishonesty than for the "news" they impart.

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