The Toronto Star had a fascinating piece from 2006 about gang life in Toronto.
One successful drug dealer said the teens he sees are uncontrollable. "It’s going to be very hard to reach them," he said. "Somebody has got to create more programs for kids. They’ve got to keep them busy. They’ve got to teach them to stay in school."
This man has made enough money selling cocaine that he no longer fights daily to survive. Bright and articulate, he has the luxury of surveying gang life from a distance. He says a lot of the youngest gangsters are hyperactive, impulsive and unable to concentrate, so they fail in a school system that is not set up for kids with their needs.
When they get expelled, their education simply deviates from the classroom to the street.
Det. Peter Duncan, who runs the street crime unit in North York, knows there is no easy solution. He grew up in a poor, single-parent home in a high-crime Vancouver neighbourhood and understands the challenges facing the kids he sees in Toronto.
During his presentations about high-risk youth, he is constantly asked if there is hope. Always his answer is yes. "If I can do it, they can do it," he said.
Duncan, who is writing a book on the issue, said that most of the children he sees in Toronto are missing key skills, even basic hygiene. And they need to be taught how to communicate, to think critically, and to understand that in a democratic society people have the freedom to express opinions without getting shot.
Gangs prey on the weakest kids, he says, those whose lives have little structure and parental support, kids who are alienated or not doing well in school. "While they don’t use the terms ‘high-risk youth,’ gangs seek out kids that fit that description very well," he said.
It describes almost every gang member and drug dealer I know.