Watch above: increasing number of females involved in gang activity in Saskatoon
SASKATOON – As Saskatoon’s economy grows so too does the amount of gang activity in the streets.
Debbie Waskewitch grew up in Saskatoon and started making gang ties when she was 13 years old.
“When I joined a gang, that’s where I was getting the love, the attention, the acceptance, the protection and what not. They made me feel like I was a family member,” she explained.
André Poiliévre is the founder of STR8 UP, an organization that helps young people leave gangs. Over the last decade, he said more young women have been getting involved in gang life.
“When I first started working with gangs, there was very very few women involved,” said Poiliévre.
“Today it’s quite common. In STR8 UP, we have quite a few members who are women, that were active in gangs.”
Poiliévre said Saskatoon’s womens’ gang, the Southside Queens, is expanding.
“Right now, women are becoming much more involved in the drug world and competing with men,” he said.
Faith Eagle was also involved in gang life from a young age. She said poverty is a major factor, especially for single moms.
“Struggling from day to day, and our baby dads being locked up in the pen,” she explained.
“And then, that waiting period is like, ‘how are you going to make money’, and then you’re stuck there, and you make split decisions,” said Eagle.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of women charged with criminal activity has increased by at least 15 per cent since 1979.
Det. Sgt. Jerome Engel with the Saskatoon Police Service said female gang involvement is growing, along with female-perpetrated crime rates.
“By the charges we’re seeing over the last year, year and a half, we’re seeing more females getting involved in, what I’ll call street robberies, thefts of automobiles, and even robberies,” Engel explained.
Since launching its auto theft task force earlier this spring, police have laid 90 charges, 30 of which were against females.
It’s unknown whether or not the spike in female crime is linked to gangs.
STR8 UP said it will continue its mission of assisting young women who want to leave gang life.