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'You need feet on the ground': Former gang-squad detective calls for more B.C. border security to target gun smugglers

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A recent string of gang-related shootings is highlighting the need for more action to be taken to crack down on gun smugglers, says one former detective with Vancouver's gang squad.

“You need feet on the ground,” said Doug Spencer, who now speaks at schools across the province about the dangers of joining a gang. “You need hundreds of new officers at the border.”

Spencer says he’s heard stories of B.C. gang members buying weapons from U.S. gun shows and smuggling them over the border. He says Vancouver’s role as a port city, in particular, provides an easier route for smuggling by sea. 

Vancouver recorded 24 “shots fired” calls in 2023. Surrey recorded 43 of those reports last year, compared to 62 in 2022. Coquitlam has seen recent rise in reports with four calls already this year, compared to just five in all of 2023.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced a $4.2 million investment in gang and gun violence prevention programs for youth in Vancouver.

"It's saving lives and it's preventing kids from getting into those gang situations,” said Harjit Sajjan, Vancouver-South Liberal MP.

The funding is part of a multi-year, $390 million Canada-wide initiative called the Gun and Gang Violence Action Fund.

“This funding is going to make a big difference in establishing these basic foundational programs that make a big difference to foundational youth,” said Lanny Libby, a City of Vancouver social planner who will oversee the initiative.

After years of pushing for tighter gun laws, the federal government recently passed contentious gun control legislation.

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