B.C. to fight gangs with blended police teams
After a bloody year of gang warfare, B.C.'s solicitor general wants the province's various police task forces and units combined into one formidable intelligence team.
B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed says plans are underway to combine the Integrated Gang Task Force, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Unit into one unit. The administrations of the three have already been blended.
Currently, the three groups work in separate locations on separate gang issues.
But Heed said in an interview with The Canadian Press that he believes the problem of organized crime and gang activity is the Number One public safety issue in the province.
Fighting the "alarming" and "brazen" attacks will take a combined intelligence squad that has broken down the communication silos among units.
Heed said other policing resources may also eventually be blended into the mega unit.
"We have to make sure that the energy in all of them are working towards what we want to accomplish," he said.
The team's creation emerges out of Premier Gordon Campbell's plan announced at the peak of the violence last February, Heed said.
Campbell announced more police officers, more prosecutors, more jails and courts, tougher laws, a crackdown on illegal guns, a new gang hotline along with a rewards program and the outlaw of armoured vehicles and body armour.
Heed was the chief of the West Vancouver Police department until he gave up his job to run for the Liberals in last May's provincial election.
Police said the street and parking lot shootings were part of a struggle over illegal drugs and turf. About two dozen gang members and their associates were dead before the war slowed.
Numerous alleged gang members were arrested on murder, drug trafficking and weapons charges, and in the months following, the shootings slowed down.
Rob Gordon, the director of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, said it's obvious the way the province has fought organized crime for the last year hasn't worked.
He said any improvement would be welcome.
"Let's face it, they couldn't miss really. There's only one place to go and that's up."
Gordon said there's been an increase in organized crime activity in the province across the board, and especially in the illegal drug trade.
"The industry is still there and it's thriving," he added.
With more than 30 years experience as a police officer, Heed said he came to the job with a different perspective than other politicians.
Before taking the job police chief, he was the former commanding officer in the Vancouver Police drug unit and was put in charge of forming a gang task force in the city to deal with a spike in Indo-Canadian gang violence.
Heed said he saw the mayhem happening in B.C. in the same light that Quebec police and residents saw the outlaw motorcycle gang battle in the 1990s.
"People were alarmed by the brazen attacks, the amount of shots being fired and I think that was the catalyst for law enforcement to come together and decide that enough is enough," Heed said.