In an Aboriginal community faced with crime, Mounties say a large group of teens are making an impact thanks to a two-year program aimed at teaching youth about self-discipline.

Sgt. Mark Linnel of the Hobbema RCMP says about 1,000 teens that belong to the Hobbema Community Cadet Corps have helped decrease property offences in that community by 80 per cent.

While gang activity is well-known in the area, about 100km south of the city, Linnel says the group is helping other youths gain experience in leadership and self-discipline rather than turning to a life of crime.

"To be blunt, it was a war zone before we launched the cadets," Linnel, who co-founded the group, said yesterday. "In Hobbema, 52 per cent of the population is under the age of 18 and that’s a good age group for gangs. That’s why we launched this."

Cadets take part in drill marching to learn more about structure and get involved in organized sports for entertainment and physical fitness.

Guest speakers will also be encouraged to get the youths thinking about planning out their careers or getting into college.

Kim Sanderson, a placement officer at the University of Alberta’s criminology program, invited the group yesterday to the school to get them thinking about attaining a post-secondary education.

"The message they have is about hard work and what it takes to get ahead," Sanderson said.