Daniel Wolfe and the street gang ethos

(newstalk 680/RCMP)

If you haven’t read Joe Friesen’s article on the late Daniel Wolfe and the Indian Posse featured in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, I’d highly recommend it.

It’s carefully researched, and Friesen talks to the right people — including Wolff’s brother, Richard, one of the founders of the street gang — and the story come alive because of it. Not to mention the references to Wolfe’s letters from jail, where he spent a fair amount of time prior to being killed there last year after being handed five life sentences for a deadly home invasion in Saskatchewan.

As always, the comments section is revealing, with Friesen taking flak from some who contend the ambitious article borders on the sentimental.

Wolff was a stone-cold killer. There’s no doubt about it. But what Friesen shows is that there’s a kind of method to Wolfe’s madness, a steely pseudo-logic born from life on the street and not from the book.

And that is likely reason number one why the IP and other similar gangs most likely won’t ever achieve the kind of “sophistication” (to use the oft-used policing term) that could see them rise out of the gutter.

In a way, that the gang’s inability to pull itself up by the bootstraps is referred to as “puzzling” is puzzling in itself.

It’s not hard to figure out.

Here’s a clip:

But police say one of the puzzling aspects of the IP has been its inability to develop the more sophisticated techniques of traditional organized crime.

“There’s no discipline to save cash and accrue assets. No education to rely on for cash management,” says Sergeant Mike MacKinnon of Winnipeg’s organized-crime unit. “You might pull them over and they’ll have $10,000 or $15,000 on them, but at the end of the day that’s money already spent. … We haven’t seen anyone moving up into buying large condos or anything like that. They still live in the neighbourhoods they always lived in.”

Richard, who left the gang years ago, is quiet when asked where all the money went. Is there a Swiss bank account? He chuckles.

He says they used to talk about investing in youngsters who could go to university and infiltrate the police force and the Crown’s office. As with many organizations, recruiting and promoting the right people was a challenge. Daniel was one of the gang’s top recruiters, but he complained in a prison letter to Richard in 2000 that there were “too many fucked-up people recruiting fucked-up people.”

—————————–From Joe Friesen’s The Ballad of Daniel Wolfe, page 3 (bolded line, emphasis mine because that’s totally interesting)

No discipline, no education, no plan. Just rep and cred. Hustle and be fierce. And that’s any street gang’s real problem.

One of MacKinnon’s colleagues said to me one day that for many so-called “sophisticated” organized crime groups, the credo could be described as:

If it doesn’t make money, it doesn’t make sense.

What I took this to mean is, if there’s nothing financial to be gained by shooting, maiming or intimidating someone, you generally — generally — don’t waste your time on it. It attracts much unwanted attention when people start getting hurt.

To paraphrase D’Angelo Barksdale (or was it Bodie Broadus?), characters from HBO’s The Wire: The police, loosely speaking, don’t care all that much if people buy drugs and get high.

They really care when people start getting dead. Especially people not ‘in the game,’ as it were.

Therein lies the paradox of the street gang.

You have to hurt others to demonstrate your power but in doing so you ultimately show weakness.

Thanks, Joe Friesen.

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