Gang members using guns more in Regina: expert

The director of Regina Gang Exit Network says the culture of gangs has shifted in Regina — and that means more gun use.

Younger generation gang members didn't grow up with same 'rules and the same expectations'

A window is repaired in Greer Court on Monday after the glass was shattered Saturday night. (CBC)

The shooting near a family housing complex in Regina Saturday night left residents shaken, with some afraid to return home.

A mother who spoke with CBC Saskatchewan said she continues to fear for her safety and has questioned if the incident was gang related.

Regina Housing Authority, which operates the complex, said in a statement it will review the incident to determine how they can improve tenant safety.

Gang members are almost never upfront about their involvement if they are apprehended, said a police spokesperson. Investigators will still consider it a possibility in their investigation, she said.

"I am sure this event would be very unsettling for families in that area. Now that there are people charged (and not at large in the community), we believe it lowers risk to that neighbourhood," the spokesperson said in an email.

Culture of gangs is changing: expert 

"The culture around gangs, or guns has changed in the city," said Spurgeon Root, an outreach worker and pastor who has spent nearly two decades working in Regina's North Central neighbourhood.

Root, who is director of Regina Gang Exit Network, said he's seen a notable spike in gun crime in the last 10 to 15 years. He said when he talks to older former gang members, they'll say the times have changed.

"They're all disgusted," he said. "Like why are these people running around like that's just stupid to be running around and shooting people — from their perspective — needlessly."

Guns used to be seen as resources, he said, adding it was more important to have the knowledge of who had a gun, rather using one then having to get rid of it.

"You really had to have done something to get yourself shot you know 10, 15 years ago," Root said.

"We've got a newer younger generation of gang members that didn't grow up with the same rules and the same expectations, so we do have in a sense a generational shift."

Root acknowledged several factors have contributed to the increase in gun violence alongside the generational shift, but said crystal meth dependency has fuelled the problem.

"Shooting somebody is a pretty big deal. You put a bunch of people on meth, and suddenly shooting somebody seems pretty reasonable when you're amped up."

Police gun seizures up in Regina

Regina police statistics said there were 66 "violent occurrences involving a firearm" reported between January and May 2018.

That's a 20 per cent increase from the same period in 2017. Police seized 211 firearms, not including a separate gun amnesty program, between January and May. The five year average for that period is 138.2.

'It's a bunch of hurting people'

Programs that help people leave gangs can, at times, be a hard sell to the public and to funders, Root said.

"People don't care as much about the tattooed scarred up 30-year-old gang member," he said.

"That guy deserves what he's getting, right? Why would we want to help him — he's the cause of the problems."

Root says those are the people who need the most help because they're behind the structure and recruitment of the gangs.

He said gang involvement can often be sensationalized.

"People will think it's like the movies and it really isn't. It's a bunch of hurting people trying to make it."