Since the mid-20th century, gang violence in this country has become widespread and reports have increased for 5 of the past 7 years. Despite the steady growth in the number and size of gangs across Canada and the criminal behavior and violence they spawn, little is known about the dynamics that drive gangs and how to best combat their growth. For instance, no consensus exists on how gangs form, and few gang prevention programs have been rigorously evaluated.

Prevention refers to services, programs or activities designed to prevent people from joining gangs. Prevention often focuses on young persons. Situational gang crime prevention focuses more on the situational causes of crime and less on the dispositional traits of specific offenders and often addresses the environmental and opportunistic factors that influence offender decision-making.

Information provided by the Integrated Gangs and Weapons Enforcement Unit of the Hamilton Police Service (HPS) showed a growing trend in youth gang involvement in the Hamilton area. The 2009 HPS report showed a 7% increase in crime among youth (ages 12-17) and increased accessibility to gangs due to internet recruitment efforts.

To address the issue of youth gangs, Living Rock Ministries, a non-profit Christian outreach based in downtown Hamilton, delivered the Gang Prevention Strategy (GPS) with approximately 2.3M in funding from the National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC). The program was implemented from April 2007 to March 2011. It targeted youth aged 13 to 25 who were at risk of gang involvement, or were already gang-involved.

To make anti-gang strategies most successful, an important first step involves conducting an assessment of the problem. An up-front assessment of a problem helps leaders understand the problem in as much detail as possible. The leaders can then focus planning and target their actions on a plan that saves time and money in the long run.

The assessment process generally consists of three steps:

  1. Laying the groundwork and identifying people who can oversee the entire process and provide direction for data collection efforts.
  2. Collecting data, analyzing and interpreting it using a range of indicators in multiple domains.
  3. Preparing reports, findings and final reports that explain in detail the nature and extent of the situation.