Calgary's gang problem could have been prevented if it had not been downplayed when in fact it was on the rise, a retired police officer says.

Security analyst Henry Hollinger, who retired from the force in 2005 after spending more than two decades monitoring the city's Asian gangs, said it was a mistake not to put more resources toward the problem sooner.

"The gang problem was minimized when it was actually quite evident that we had gangs," Hollinger told CBC News Monday.

 "Now we're dealing with the problem … We didn't have that continuance of the intelligence, of the enforcement. You know, every couple of years, we had to start from scratch."

Although the gang problem is finally receiving the attention it deserves, Hollinger said, the escalating rivalry between two Asian gangs, believed to be behind several recent shootings, is a "very, very tough" problem to solve.

Made up largely of young, new immigrants, the gangs are much more difficult to infiltrate than others, such as the Hells Angels, whose members are mostly big, Caucasian men who speak English or French, he said.

Although the lucrative drug trade remains at the centre of Calgary's gang activity, Hollinger said, members are putting more energy toward fighting each other and less into the business itself.

A lack of strong leadership is part of the problem, he said.

In another development, Calgary police say they are going to stick with their policy of not using the names of gangs in their media reports.

Naming the gangs just gives them credibility, they say,  and the publicity might even encourage more activity.