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Regina Anti-Gangs Services

Canada

The city of Regina, capital of the Saskatchewan Province in Canada, decided to address the issue of juvenile gangs via a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency approach involving not only over forty agencies and government departments but also numerous civil society organizations, and its entire community  overall.

The result was the creation of the Regina Anti-Gangs Services, RAGS (slang designating the coloured bandanas worn to show gang affiliation). The RAGS project works with gang-involved Aboriginal youth and young adults and aims at reducing criminal activities committed by young Aboriginal gang members. The program provides intensive support services to reduce involvement in gang life and to facilitate leaving gangs. The RAGS program is supported by Public Safety Canada, National Crime Prevention Centre’s Youth Gang Prevention Fund (YGPF) and is delivered by the North Central Community Association, a not-for-profit, grass-roots agency dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of residents. The project began in October, 2007 and will be piloted and evaluated under the YGPF until March, 2011.

The RAGS project activities were developed and designed based on combining available evidence from several approaches:

Wraparound Milwaukee

Wraparound Milwaukee is a comprehensive care program that focuses on delivering strength-based, individualized care to delinquent youth and their families. It was designed to reduce the number of youth being institutionalized by providing family-based treatment and programs within the community. The program targets youth ages 13 to 17 with serious emotional, behavioural, and mental health needs and their families.

The goals of Wraparound Milwaukee are:

  • - reduce anti-social behaviour;
  • - help families access available services;
  • - increase association with pro-social peers;
  • - increase family cohesion; and
  • - minimize out-of-home placements.

 

Evaluation has demonstrated that youth who received interventions from Wraparound Milwaukee had a significant reduction in recidivism rates. They had a significant decrease in felony referrals, misdemeanour referrals. They also committed fewer sex offences, property offences, assault offences, and weapons offences.

Youth Engagement

The youth engagement approach is designed to help youth effect positive change in their lives and in the lives of their families by building resiliency against a number of risk factors associated with gang activity. It incorporates skill development, experiential learning and education, which allows youth to take leadership in selecting the activities and initiatives that are appropriate for their needs.

Circle of Courage

Circle of Courage is an approach to youth empowerment that is based on contemporary healing and resiliency research and traditional Native philosophies of child-rearing. This approach encourages the development of four core values that exist among healthy individuals and in functioning communities. These four universal growth needs are: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. The approach is based on the idea that risk factors for children and youth are related to living in hazardous environments characterized by discouragement. Through the Circle of Courage process, environments are changed to promote courage as a key factor to meet the needs of young people and reclaim them from high risk lifestyles.

 

Program Participants

RAGS focuses on Aboriginal youth aged 12-30 who are currently involved in youth street gangs. Family members (including parents, siblings and partners) are also involved in the program.

Key Partners

Many community partners are also involved in the delivery of program activities. Some of the key organizations involved include:

  • - Regina Police Service
  • - Regina Board of Education
  • - Inter Provincial Anti-Gang Programs
  • - Saskatchewan Department of Corrections and Public Safety
  • - Project Hope Street Nurses Organization
  • - Regina Aids Foundation
  • - Faith-based organizations
  • - Federal Departments including Heritage Canada and Service Canada

 

Program Components

Based on the knowledge of the youth involved in street gangs in North Central neighbourhood of Regina, and the evidence for what works in addressing their needs, RAGS has developed 24/7 programming that includes the following specialized components:

Intensive Counselling  - To help exiting gang members/youth develop daily safety plans, deal with crises situations/criminal justice supports/relocation/addictions and provide on the spot support/counselling when it is required.

Life Skills/Cognitive Skills  - Programming to encourage and coach youth in positive, pro-social behaviour and personal skill development.

The ‘Circle Keeper’ Program - Designed specifically for female youth gang members involved in the sex trade, offering facilitated groups to address safety needs, addictions and provide connections to support and therapeutic resources.

Cultural/Faith-based Programming  - Through First Nation/Aboriginal traditional circle practices that focus on mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual components of the life cycle as well as opportunities to explore diverse Faith-based experiences.

Gang Exit Strategy  - Engages federal and provincial partners and builds expert knowledge on the appropriate methods of gang exit safety and programming including geographical relocation.

Outreach Program - Works in and around the community providing education and awareness to schools, community agencies justice programs including probation services, parole services and young offender programs.

Family Programming - Provides interventions, counselling, addictions education, and awareness and criminal justice system supports to the family members of youth participants.

 

Evaluation Design

A comprehensive evaluation of the project is being conducted by a third party evaluator. The purpose of the evaluation is to thoroughly document the RAGS project implementation and impacts in order to contribute to the knowledge of what project components work best to prevent or reduce gang involvement.

A variety of data collection and analytical techniques, including both quantitative methods (risk assessment surveys, financial analyses) and qualitative methods (interviews, field observations of programs, client file audits) are being utilized. A pre-, mid, post and follow-up design will allow for the measurement of change over time and a non-randomized comparison group design will inform outcomes.

To learn more about RAGS, visit: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/cp/ythgng/cpa01-rags-eng.aspx