The landscape of gangs in Regina is changing.
Former members, and those still with ties to gangs in the Queen City, said there were only about three major gangs as recently as three years ago.
Most notably, the group known as the Native Syndicate, was considered an untouchable presence in Regina’s notorious North Central neighbourhood.
“It’s a lot of kids shooting each other,” Dakota Toto said of the current state of affairs. The former NS member has been out for a few years now, but is well aware of the evolving dynamic.
A combination of high ranking Native Syndicate members being killed or arrested crippled the gang’s leadership, and opened the door for other groups to enter the fray.
Now, there are anywhere from 10 to 12, or more, gangs operating in Regina.
“It’s everyone against NS these days,” Toto said.
Where there may have been at least some semblance of structure in previous years, it has largely vanished in what is becoming an increasingly chaotic landscape.
Toto says an influx of different gangs from other cities has made the situation more diverse and dangerous.
This shift is acknowledged by Regina police.
“The violence that is associated to gangs would be the biggest change,” Chief Evan Bray said.
“What used to be a physical fight — a fistfight — now involves weapons and often firearms.”
Crime stats in the city reflect this as well. Regina saw just 17 firearm offences committed as recently as 2015, but that number had skyrocketed to 69 by 2018, according to Statistics Canada data.
Even with those numbers climbing, pulling a trigger is hardly an everyday occurrence for an average gang member. The difference is a new, perpetual threat of gun violence.
“You’re always, constantly prepared for it,” said Cody Francis, another former NS member.
“It doesn’t happen as much as you’d expect, but when it does, it gets pretty bad.”
When it gets bad, that’s when police get involved. However, Bray said law enforcement can’t just arrest the issues away.
Officers and gang members deal with each other virtually every day, but many of those interactions aren’t confrontational at all.
“The root of it is building relationships,” Bray said of his approach to enforcement.
“There are a lot of good relationships with people in our community who are part of gangs… and yet those are relationships that have to be built in order for us to effectively do our jobs.”