09/12/2012 02:34 EDT | Updated 11/12/2012 05:12 EST

Critics say current 'gangs' younger, less organized

While police say a notorious gang was involved in a spate of killings and shootings in east Toronto, some critics say the current crop of young men involved in street-level crime are not as organized as some of their predecessors.

Toronto police held a pair of news conferences on Tuesday, outlining their belief that the Galloway Boys were involved in the deadly shootout on Danzig Street that left two young people dead this summer, as well as another killing and other shootings.

Both Shyanne Charles, 14, and Joshua Yasay, 23, died when they were caught in the crossfire on the evening of July 16.

Twenty-three other people were injured in the Danzig Street violence, which police say involved five or more people firing guns in a crowded space filled with scores of people.

Police also allege that Galloway Boys members killed a man in late December after incorrectly identifying him as a member of a rival group.

But the victim, D’Mitre Barnaby, had no links to any street gangs and merely had the misfortune of looking like someone else, police say.

Police say they have also tied the Galloway Boys to a half-dozen shootings that occurred since September of last year.

While many Torontonians will be familiar with the Galloway Boys name and the group’s violent past, one community worker says he was shocked to hear the police say that the street gang was actively involved in so many recent incidents.

Gangs don't have 'dominant effect on the community'

Soul-R Damon Maraj, the managing director of the Impacting Communities program in east Scarborough, said he has seen little evidence to suggest that powerful street gangs are a force in the area.

"I was a little bit surprised when they brought up the name like Galloway Boys and some of those names from gangs from previous years," Maraj told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Wednesday.

Maraj said the part of east Toronto where these violent events have occurred is not "overrun" by gangs, which he said exist more in the form of small, less-organized groups of young people.

"You might have a little pocket of groups of marginalized youth who are assimilating and calling themselves gangs, but we don’t see that within the general community," Maraj said.

"So it’s not something that is problematic in that it has a dominant effect on the community."

These young people often restrict their movements to very small regions, such as intersection or a block, Maraj said. They keep to themselves for a variety of reasons.

"A lot of it has to do with business, a lot of it has to do with that," he said.

"A lot of it also has to do with the negative relationships they’ve built with other people in other communities and the negative stereotypes that come with it."

Not a turf war

While police have also said the Galloway Boys are currently in conflict with males from Orton Park, Anthony Hutchinson, a court-certified gang expert sees a less clear roadmap of who is fighting who.

"We’re not looking at a new gang turf war rivalry between, let’s say the Malvern Crew and the Galloway Boys," Hutchinson told CBC News in a recent interview.

"What we are looking at right now is something much more disorganized and more reckless and much more dangerous."

Orton Park lies slightly to the northwest of the area where the Galloway Boys are known to roam, which is centred in the Kingston Road and Galloway Road area.

But for people living in either community, there is a frustration that comes with gangs being publicly associated with the area.

"Not everybody that lives in this community or in the Galloway area are criminals and they shouldn’t be treated as such," said Tracey Thomas, whose friends and family live in Kingston-Galloway.