Drugs, Guns, and More Talk of Calgary Gangs

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Drugs, Guns, and More Talk of Calgary Gangs

It seems like there's a new story every week with the same basic details: Calgary Police track down someone who is allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, then announce that they believe their suspect is also involved in orchestrated violence and other gang-related activity. It happened again this week, with the details playing out exactly as described.

What the Calgary Police—and the Calgary news outlets that continue reporting these stories as though they're earth shattering news—fail to mention, each and every time, is that under Alberta law any group of people who meet more than once in the furtherance of any illegal activity is automatically considered a gang, by definition. A group of teenagers that regularly pirate movies online and get together to share files with each other a few times is, according to the law, a gang.

Just so, any group of people that get together to coordinate the selling of illegal drugs is a gang. There is no guesswork or suspicion involved; if two or more people are actually guilty of dealing drugs, and if they planned their business together, they're a gang, period. The term does not mean they've actually engaged in any additional criminal activities, but the label can come with extra charges and harsher penalties for no logical reason.

I've pointed out before that criminalizing drugs has always and will always lead to violence. Laws making drugs illegal do little or nothing to affect demand, but they significantly restrict supply and put it in the hands of those who, again by definition, are criminal. That this leads to criminal violence as suppliers compete shouldn't be a surprise. By invoking gangs—which were unquestionably a significant problem in Calgary in the past decade—the Calgary Police are taking an unfortunate yet ordinary outgrowth of the illegal drug trade and using it to create an atmosphere of fear.

There are no marauders roaming the streets and picking on innocent victims. There are no areas of town where simply wearing the wrong color puts you at risk. We simply do not have gangs in Calgary if by "gangs" we mean anything resembling the FOB and FK organizations of yesteryear. But if the police can keep us thinking that gangs are still a serious problem instead of understanding that limited violence is going to continue as long as drugs are criminalized, they can get more funding, get more leeway in their investigations, and continue their strategy of attempting to dominate and control rather than protect and serve.

So the next time you read something about Calgary's gangs, keep in mind there isn't really a cohesive organization or even long-standing affiliation being discussed. There are few individuals who have allegedly decided to break the law together—it's no more or less scary than that.

A Criminal Defence Lawyer for All of Calgary

If you've been accused of a crime, whether it's drug-related or not and regardless of whether the police have decided to call you a "gang member," I'm here to provide you with a vigorous defence. To speak with a Calgary lawyer who is committed to bringing fairness and transparency back to the Calgary criminal justice system, please contact my office today.