Police take aim at gang recruitment, reach out to communities

The Winnipeg Police Service is launching an anti-gang campaign using posters at schools, community centres and other locations throughout the city.

Police say they have a handle on the 30 to 35 street gangs in the city

Insp. Max Waddell said one of the goals of the campaign is to build trust with the community and equip people with the skills to identify gang issues and encourage them to call police or Crime Stoppers. (CBC)

Winnipeg police are trying a new poster campaign to fight street gangs.

They are launching an anti-gang campaign using posters at schools, community centres and other locations throughout the city, to: 

  • To better educate the public about the dangers of guns and gangs.
  • Encourage people to report any information about illegal guns and gangs.
  • Reach young people and divert them from future gang activity.

The latter goal refers particularly to those kids who have older brothers and sisters already in gangs, said Insp. Max Waddell, with the police service's organized crime unit.

"That's something that we're really striving towards, is reaching out to these young siblings of gang members and trying to show them a different way of life," he said.

Gang activity spikes in the summer, so the police want to "keep ahead of the curve" by reaching out to the community to prevent recruitment and encourage people to report gang activity. (CBC)
Waddell said there is no recent incident that has prompted this campaign. It's more of an awareness that gang activity spikes in the summer, so the police want to "keep ahead of the curve."

Estimates there are about 30-35 street gangs have been in the city at some point but Waddell said he can't give a definitive number because they come and go and change names.

"By no stretch is it an epidemic or out of control. I think we have a very good handle on things," he said, adding that it's important to reach out to the community in a proactive way to make sure the situation doesn't escalate.

To that end, the police and several community organizations are hosting a Gang Awareness Information Night on Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Magnus Elias Recreation Centre — 430 Langside St.

The goal is to build trust with the community and equip people with the skills to identify gang issues and encourage them to call police or Crime Stoppers.

A lot of people who live in neighbourhoods that are hot spots for gangs are newcomers to Canada and it is their children who are often targeted for recruitment, said Waddell.

As well, a lot of those families come from countries where there is a mistrust of law enforcement personnel, said Paul Johnson, a former police officer who is now the chair of Manitoba Crime Stoppers.

"This is something we're hoping to help convince people it's OK to come forward and provide information," he said.

"We all need to work collectively together to stop this process [of recruitment]," Waddell added.