Vancouver police have taken the unusual step of warning the public to stay away from six alleged gang members, whom the Chief of police says could be targeted amid a surge in shootings outside malls, restaurants and even the international airport on British Columbia’s south coast.
Chief Constable Adam Palmer said at a Monday news conference that his department is posting their photos, names and ages in an attempt to save a bystander from being hurt or killed in a new gang-related shooting.
He added there have been 20 gang-related homicides and the same number of attempted killings in Metro Vancouver this year, and he expects these shootings – many of which have been in “broad daylight” – to escalate.
“These six individuals pose a risk to the people around them because it’s highly likely that a rival gangster will try to target them with extreme violence,” he said. “They’re a risk to people every time they go to the gym, they go shopping, they go to the grocery store a restaurant or a bar, when bars are open.”
Four of the six men’s photos appeared to be mugshots from previous arrests, but the Chief, flanked by three of his deputies and a superintendent, said they do not have outstanding warrants. Two sets of two brothers who had both lost another brother to gang violence were named in the release, with the most recent slaying occurring a month ago outside an upscale waterfront restaurant in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour.
Last week, the head of the RCMP’s federal investigative services and organized crime units in the province held a news conference saying police in the region are tackling this spike in violence together, but they may be legally bound not to identify victims or suspects publicly before charges are laid.
On Monday, Chief Palmer said the public can expect other local police agencies to start releasing similar lists of men likely to be hit by the gang violence.
Public fear over getting caught by crossfire is not unfounded. On May 8, a 19-year-old man was killed outside a local vape store in a targeted shooting that also injured a bystander. In 2007, Chris Mohan, a 22-year-old going to play basketball, and Ed Schellenberg, a fireplace repairman, were among six men – dubbed the Surrey Six – shot dead in an apartment building. Three years ago, 15-year-old Alfred Wong was killed by stray gunfire from a gang shootout as his family returned from dinner along a busy street near Vancouver City Hall.
Last Thursday, a 23-year-old man was killed and two others – a man and a woman with him – were hurt in a targeted shooting in the parking lot of a Burnaby, B.C., mall.
Pat Fogarty, a former Vancouver police officer who led the organized crime section of B.C.’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit gang squad for five years before retiring in 2013, praised Vancouver police’s new approach as educating the public and, perhaps, putting pressure on these men from friends and family that are embarrassed by their new-found infamy.
Mr. Fogarty added that the root causes driving the violence are myriad and it’s very difficult for police to tackle such a complicated issue.
“We really don’t play as significant a role as we think we do – the police. In other words the bad guys are going to do what they want, largely, and they will stop when they want,” he said.
With a report from The Canadian Press
We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.