The term street gang refers to a group of three or more people who are formally or informally organized for a criminal purpose. Gangs usually have a common name, sign or symbol that represents them.

Street gangs are a concern as they scare and intimidate members of the community and can negatively influence and lure young people into the gang life. This is a problem as the intimidated community members are less likely to report gang-related crimes, such as theft, harassment, drugs, guns and human trafficking.

Unreported crimes encourage criminal behaviour and prevent police from stopping them.

How Gangs Attract New Members

Recruitment into street gangs usually begins young. Young people are attracted by a false sense of being part of a family, a new identity and stability. Once trust is built, new recruits are convinced to do what the gang members tell them to, such as selling drugs or being a lookout, as part of their duty to the gang. If the recruit refuses to participate, the gang may threaten to harm them or their loved ones.

Characteristics of Gang Members

  • Dressing in a specific style (e.g., gang-related colours, bandanas, gang-related jewellery etc.).
  • Carrying guns and/or other weapons.
  • Using gang-related hand gestures (e.g, making b hand gesture to represent Bloods and c hand gesture represent Crips).
  • Writing or endorsing the gang lifestyle described in gang literature and gang musical lyrics.
  • Tattooing or branding themselves with their gang name or symbol.

Possible Signs of a Person at Risk

  • Isolation from family and old friends.
  • Owns more than one cell phone.
  • Becomes withdrawn from regular activities.
  • Owns expensive items and/or clothing that they can't afford.
  • Changes in appearance (e.g., wearing certain gang-related colours, bandanas, etc.).
  • Changes in behaviour and attitude (e.g., adopting new slang, hand gestures, and/or suddenly refusing to listen to authority figures).
  • Coming home later than usual without explanation.

Please note: possible signs mentioned above are indicators to watch for, but does not confirm the person is involved in a street gang

Education Programs and Police Enforcement

Several Peel Regional Police units are involved in programs and strategies that aim to prevent gang violence, stop gangs from recruiting new members, and keep the community safe.

  • Our Street Crime Unit works to identify gang-related crime, including those involving drugs and firearms.
  • Our Gang Unit focuses on identifying street gangs and their connections, with an aim to stop gang activity within the Region of Peel.
  • Our Identifying Vulnerabilities in Youth (IVY) program works to educate students and adults on human trafficking and gang involvement. As part of the program, officers do educational presentations in schools and community groups for both young people and adults. You can request an IVY presentation by contacting Crime Prevention Services
  • New Direction is a gang intervention program for vulnerable people aged 12-20. The program is for those who are at-risk or involved in gangs and need extra support to ensure they remain positively engaged in the community. For more information, visit the BMC Centre.
  • The National Crime Prevention Centre of Public Safety Canada works to reduce crime and gang activity.


If you are being victimized or targeted by a gang, or if you want to report a crime, call 905-453-3311.

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