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TitleAn Ethnographic Analysis of the Effects of Neighbourhood Revitalization on the Lives of Criminally
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“More People Are Dying”: An Ethnographic Analysis of the Effects

of Neighbourhood Revitalization on the Lives of Criminally

Involved Men

by: Marta-Marika Urbanik

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Sociology

University of Alberta

© Marta-Marika Urbanik, 2017

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Park neighbourhood navigate the fears and dangers

disadvantaged areas during a period of mass neighbourhood change. Based on 156 interviews

and over 10 months of ethnographic field work conducted over 4 summers, this project engages

with criminological and sociological concepts to grasp the complex ways neighbourhood

redevelopment affects those living in the midst of urban renewal, particularly in regards to

criminal processes and structures. It explores how male residents have changed their navigation

of social relations, space, and presentations of self since the onset of neighbourhood

redevelopment, to better suit newer neighbourhood dynamics during this period of instability.

First, contradicting common notions that view major criminal players as a purely negative

phenomenon; my findings demonstrate that the presence of major criminal players in an

impoverished neighbourhood can benefit communities (i.e., by controlling violence). The

displacement of these actors due to neighbourhood redevelopment robs the neighbourhood of

means of informal social control, leaving many residents feeling increasingly fearful about the

supposed changes in predictability and nature of violence. Second, the displacement of many of

the neighbourhoods major criminal players has allowed for a new racialized gang to form,

creating competition over status and resources between established groups and emerging ones,

yet perhaps surprisingly, not leading to intra-gang violence. Here, the shared identity as Regent

Park residents has suppressed intra-gang violence, with the groups drawing moral boundaries

between each other, instead of drawing weapons. Finally, my results show that while

neighbourhood gangs have usually been located in a set space, the proliferation of social media

has expanded the consequences of gang- beefs,

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distinction. This was true for many criminal and non-criminal residents alike, who often

emphasized their similarities as ‘coming from the same place’ as opposed to focusing on their

differences in terms of the extent to which they were involved in crime. As noted above, Regent

Park’s major criminal players believed that the shared status of neighbourhood residency was

integral in suppressing violence between two groups who differed in terms of ethno-cultural

composition, and apparently also in ‘acceptability’ of criminal behaviour and ‘legitimacy’ of

violence. Despite the existence and significance of group differences that my participants

continuously brought to my attention, it was their shared identity as Regent Parkers, including a

shared history, shared struggles, and shared ‘hustle’ that helped to buffer violence that one might

predict would result from inter-group competition and conflict.


While my participants did not try and violently suppress the new groups working on their

territory, they repelled these new Somali groups in other ways. In particular, they turned to non-

violent methods to express their frustrations; instead of drawing weapons, they drew stark

distinctions between themselves and the emerging Somali groups. When talking about the

Somali guys, 28-year-old Daniel put it to me this way:

“They have no respect. They’re crazy. They don’t care. They’re killers. Some are 13,

14, they aint scared to shoot. They don’t care who you are. They don’t care if you’re an

Old Head. No respect man. The blacks, they know what's worth it and what aint. They

THINK about it, they calculate. But these Somali kids? They don’t give a flying fuck.

They shoot each other. You got boys jumping each other, guys from the same gang

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robbin each other, stabbing each other, setting each other up, like what happened to


Fig is a 16 year old Somali male who was beaten into a coma by a group of men

immediately after he exited a vehicle. Given

, neighbourhood residents were convinced that he knew

his assailants. It was widely believed that it was his own Somali best friends who delivered the

beating. The Caribbean guys used

groups were less legitimate and less honorable because they engaged in intra-group violence.


between his Caribbean boys and the Somali group. I thought this was particularly interesting as

Daniel was also one of the young men most boastful about the violence he and his boys engaged

opinion, the behaviours of the Somali groups are different from those of the Caribbean groups,

-T overhead this conversation, and chimed in:

- the

blacks, we were always packin [carrying guns]. We still be packin

for the right reasons, you know? We only go after those who need a little lesson, know

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can consent to tape-recording for all future meetings (you can always ask me to turn it off at

any time). If you agree, the information that is collected on tape will be written down as

soon as I get home. Once the information is written down, the tape will be erased. The

physically write down everything that you say and can avoid forgetting or misunderstanding

important information. It will also help me record exactly what you say and how you say it,

word for word. If you consent to tape recordings, I ask that you not say your name while you

are being recorded. -

recorded, I still invite you to be part of the study.

14) I must inform you that I have to contact the police if you tell me about a plan that you have to
cause serious harm to yourself or t

to the police or anybody else about what you tell me unless the courts force me to. That is

my promise.

15) Aside from legal risks, by participating in my study you may also be exposed to
psychological or emotional stress, particularly when discussing past personal and

community-level experiences with crime, violence, and victimization. In addition, there is

also the possibility that participating in this research may lead to a potential loss of social

status in front of others.

16) There are multiple benefits of your participation in the study. Personally, you may find the
experience of being able to discuss their lives with an objective researcher as reflective and

enjoyable. Additionally, your participation in the study may help future generations of social

housing residents by shedding light on the victories and challenges that housing residents

(law abiding or otherwise) face on a daily basis. I hope to use this knowledge to contribute to

policy developments on neighbourhood revitalization and guide urban planners, government,

community organizations, Non Government Organizations (NGOs), and the police in how to

best approach neighbourhood restructuring.

17) If you would like to see the consent form that I am reading you right now, and would like it
read it yourself, you can ask me to do that right now, or at any time.

Do you have any questions about what I

or ask you to sign anything.

Do you understand that you have been asked to be in a research study? Yes No

Have you read and received a copy of the attached Information Sheet? Yes No

Do you understand the benefits and risks involved in taking part in this research study? Yes No

Have you had an opportunity to ask questions and discuss this study? Yes No

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Do you understand that you are free to refuse to participate, or to withdraw from the study at

any time, without consequence, and that your information will be withdrawn at your request?

Yes No

Has the issue of confidentiality been explained to you? Do you understand who will have

access to your information?

Yes No

Do you agree to participate in the interview today? Yes No

May I tape-record the interview? Yes No

Do you agree to participate in the study as a key informant? Yes No

Do you agree to have our interviews tape-recorded? Yes No

Do you agree to have our informal conversations tape-recorded? Yes No

Do you want me to ask for your consent each time I turn the tape-recorder on? Yes No

Will you allow me to shadow you and participate in various aspects of your life as you see fit? Yes No

I, Marta-Marika Urbanik, have read the participant this form, offered him/her the opportunity to

ask questions, and have answered any questions that he/she has asked.

Dated this ________day of ___________________ 20____.

Signed: _____________________________________.

the things we just talked about. As you can see, it describes how your participation in the study

is completely voluntary and that I will keep all of the information I collect completely

confidential. At the top of the page, you can see my contact information. If you have any

questions about this study, please contact me at any time.

The plan for this study has been reviewed for its adherence to ethical guidelines by a Research

Ethics Board at the University of Alberta. For questions regarding participant rights and ethical

conduct of research, contact the Research Ethics Office at (780) 492-2615.

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