Book Reviews

Our Punks on Our Streets

Just who do we blame for Canada’s growing street gang problem, and how do we fix it: More cops? More serious jail time? More social workers and social programs? More funding for schools? Form youth groups? ‘Yes’ to all of the above, and if we want to blame anyone, blame ourselves first. Michael Chettleburgh’s Young Thugs: Inside the Dangerous World of Canada’s Street Gangs, (Harper Collins, Toronto, 2007) is the most recent result of his comprehensive and systemic study of the phenomenon in Canada.

Our swelling problem derives from several causes – massive immigration and its effects probably lie at the heart of them all, but Chettleburgh is also swift to point out that there has always been an inclination for young men to form gangs of one kind or another. We have been slow in providing a plentiful supply of the ‘another’ (cadets, sports teams, scouting troops, etc.) which are so useful in socializing young males – particularly those who come from households without a decent male role model present.

In Canada, street gangs include representation from all races, and can be found in almost every major city – and elsewhere. If we are to reverse their growth, we may have to take a whole spectrum of solutions simultaneously. Chettleburgh has more claim to expertise on Canada’s street gangs than anyone else – having done more original research on the subject than anyone else. This is a useful book, although perhaps some of his asides and more orthodox political observations were unnecessary.

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