Why are gang-related murders so difficult to solve? We asked a homicide investigator
VANCOUVER -- Metro Vancouver's homicide rate is trending down as a whole, investigators say, but the solve rate for gang-related murders in B.C. is still well below the national average.
There were 52 homicides in the Lower Mainland region in 2017, compared to 40 in 2018 and 38 last year.
Sgt. Frank Jang of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said the numbers show a positive trend, and that officers hope the 2020 total is even lower.
The solve rate for homicides overall is around 60 per cent, Jang said.
Data from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics' homicide survey suggests when it comes to deaths that are not tied to gangs, the solve rate is nearly 80 per cent.
But the "clearance rate" – meaning the percentage of investigations that result in charges – for cases with gang ties is just 38 per cent, according to the CCJS.
It's a number Jang says is well below the national average.
Why is the solve rate so low?
CTV News asked Jang why those cases are so difficult to solve.
"When you talk about gangs, organized crime, you think that there is a level of organization behind it. People take steps," he said.
"Oftentimes you see in homicide investigations burnt vehicles – things like that. People responsible for homicides taking that step to eradicate evidence."
It's a trend that appears to be widely used in Metro Vancouver. Reports of a vehicle fire some distance away often follow reports of a shooting, and later, homicide investigators link the incidents and describe them as gang-related.
Formula for getting away with murder?
Jang was questioned about whether the burned-car formula is working. Have gangsters found a way to get away with it?
"I don't know if I'd say they're well-executed. They take steps. Perhaps they're seeing in the media what other perpetrators are doing – they're just copycatting that MO," he said.
"They think that they've committed the perfect crime, and we have news for them: they haven't. We're not going to stop coming after these people and keeping them accountable."
Jang said he's hopeful this year will bring "a lot of charges" holding those involved in homicides accountable for their roles.
Witness co-operation an issue
Another large roadblock for officers assigned to a case is witnesses who aren't willing to co-operate, Jang said.
Family, friends and associates of the victim may also be involved in the gang lifestyle and refuse to provide crucial information.
"But it's not impossible to overcome that. Actually with IHIT, oftentimes you see myself and the family members on television, on CTV, appealing on behalf of their murdered loved ones. And I'll tell you, after we do these things, there's a lot of phone calls that stream in to our information line," he said.
"People who are involved, people who have information actually call in. It's because we're all human beings. We all have hearts, we all have loved ones. And it's why we do that, because we show that there is actually a family, there was actually a human being, behind all of it."
Jang said those news conferences do inspire changes of heart, and encourage people to come forward.
The sergeant was also asked about gang demographics, and what he'd describe as the toughest part of the job. Watch the full interview for more.