Reduce Gangs in the City!

Studies have shown that most youths become gang members after school and before supper time.

Therefore, if there are organized activities for youths after school then gang recruitment are drastically reduced.

I learned about this strategy at the following event in 2008:


The Ottawa Youth Gang Prevention Initiative presents:
Youth Gangs in Ottawa
A Public Forum for parents, affected community members
and the general public.
Date: Wednesday October 22nd, 2008 (7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.) at the Jim Durrell Recreation Complex – 1265 Walkely Road, Ottawa

Topics included:

There was a panel discussion with moderator, followed by question and answer session:



Two councillors were also in attendance:

The presentation by Michael Chettleburgh  was very informative and he highlighted how gangs get started, how to recognize gangs and methods to reduce their appeal to youth. He said that kids get “Gang Socialized” between the hours of 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm during the week: i.e. after school and before suppertime. Therefore, if there is some type of organized activity or supervision of youths at this time of day then their chance of joining a gang will be greatly reduced. He also wrote a book on the topic called “Young Thugs, Inside the Dangerous World of Canadian Street Gangs”. (Chettleburgh, Michael, 2007) Toronto: Harper Collins Publisher.

At the question and answer section of the evening I asked the panel whether Gangs use graffiti to “Tag” their territory or whether this is just an urban myth.

Michael Chettleburgh answered that most graffiti is of the artist or “hip hop” variety. He said that only 5% of graffiti is gang related in terms of using it to mark their territory. Sometimes a gang will also deface another gang’s tags in order to insult that other gang.

A key point in recognizing Gang Tagging is that it is of one colour (Black).

Staff Sergeant Mike Callaghan, Ottawa Police Services (Guns & Gangs Unit) also stated that most of the graffiti is not gang related, but a very small percentage is gang related.

Therefore, in terms of overall graffiti, gang tagging is a small percentage, but it does exist.

They also mentioned that “Gang Card Identifiers” are available in Police Community Centres.

There are two main gangs in Ottawa:

I bought Michael Chettleburg’s book and the information on Gang Graffiti includes the following:



Of all the graffiti we see, approximately 2 or 3 percent or maybe upwards of 5 percent in the most troubled inner city areas, is actually gang graffiti. The majority (80+ percent) is so-called hip hop graffiti, the balance being a combination of hate, folk, political activist, satanic cult, stencil and “Latrinalia” (washroom) graffiti.

The police will tell you that collateral crime is associated with hip hop graffiti. In Toronto for instance, Inspector Heinze Kuck of  Toronto Police Service, the country’s foremost graffiti expert, says that 80 percent of the graffiti vandals they arrest admit to stealing their supplies, something they call “racking” (taking paint cans from racks in the store). However, other than the theft of supplies, trespassing, vandalism and the consumption of illegal drugs, which is part of the lifestyle, the vast majority of hip hop graffiti artists do not involve themselves in serious crimes or in gang activity. Their crime one of misplaced and illegal artistry, of treating public spaces as their canvas to decorate, and not that of gangsterism.

In contrast, whereas hip hop graffiti in all its forms is designed to be read, understood and appreciated only by those within the subculture, gang graffiti is usually clear, one colour, crisp and legible to most people, including cops, citizens and other gang members. There are five unique forms of gang graffiti.

- The “hit-up” is a form of graffiti  - usually


a logo, the gang name or initials – used to demarcate boundaries or assist with recruitment. It says to rival gangs, “We own this turf, so stay out”, and informs at-risk youth, who may be contemplating the gang life from whom they seek membership.

- The “cross-out” is a combative form of graffiti where a rival gang, as the name suggests, crosses out another gang’s hit-up markings; it denotes lack of respect for that gang or a challenge to the turf they claim as their own.

- A “roll-call” is designed to intimidate a community and rival gangs: the gang selects a large surface such as the side of a building and lists all the members of the gang, sometimes several dozen of them, including members who have been accused of serious crimes.

- An “RIP” – “rest in peace” – is a graffiti memorial to fallen gang members that may include their name, portrait and accomplishments.

- A finally, “threat” gang graffiti is just that – the issuing of a death threat to a rival gang member.

 … Any graffiti assumed to be gang work must be validated by the Police against empirical data, including Crime Stoppers reports, informant information, prisoner debriefings and actual calls for service. END OF QUOTE


If I am elected as councilor for River Ward one of my first steps I will help initiate a city-wide program for youths so that we can reduce the growth of street gangs as much as possible.

The young people of our society are our greatest resource.

Michael Kostiuk

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Last Update: July 18, 2014.