For the first time, the provincial anti-gang police unit has issued an accessible report on criminal gangs for the public – a document that says B.C. organizations maintain headquarters in this province while doing business around the world.
In an introduction to the eight-page document distributed this week, Dan Malo, chief officer for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C., writes that gangs and organized crime members are now more mobile than in the past – going to other provinces to commit crimes, but also frequently returning to their illicit activities in British Columbia.
Sergeant Lindsey Houghton, a spokesman for the unit that consists of officers across the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island, elaborated on the point, saying the gang landscape in B.C. – made up of 188 groups according to the report – has become global.
"Long gone are the days when you have B.C. gangsters operating only in British Columbia. You have B.C.-born and bred gangsters or gangsters from other parts of Canada or the world coming to B.C. and setting up shop," he said.
He said they then export their violence to other provinces and other countries, referring to incidents where gang members have been murdered in Mexico or arrested in Ontario and Quebec.
"These are gangsters that aren't limited by provincial boundaries. They travel everywhere," he said. "They have absolutely no alliance to the province itself. It is all to how they can make money to further their criminal enterprises. They recognize as much as a legitimate international business person that you have to be nimble in today's criminal environment to outlast and out-earn other criminals."
This week, Vancouver police disclosed that gang member Rabih Alkhalil had been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Sandip Duhre, who was linked to gangs, at the Sheraton Wall Centre in January, 2012. Mr. Alkhalil is also charged in a shooting death last year in Toronto.
While the police were initially vague on aspects of his arrest, they disclosed Thursday he was arrested Feb. 22 in an eastern suburb of Athens, Greece, after he was stopped on a traffic violation, but that there was no media announcement until now.
Sgt. Houghton said the report, which has been posted on CFSEU's website, was developed over the last five months to provide a succinct summary on the gang situation in the province.
The report says gang-related homicides between 2006 and 2012 peaked at 36 in 2009, declined to 18 in 2010, then nine in 2011, but increased to 18 in 2012. Sgt. Houghton said the figure to date in 2013 was about eight.
Violence is being driven by a ferocious competition for money from trade in illicit drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and crystal meth. "Growing instability is to blame for the rising violence," says Chief Officer Malo.
The report also says the average age for gang-violence victims is 30, 96 per cent are men, and 78 per cent of bodies are found in or near their cars or homes.
The report says 118 people – 112 men and six women – were killed in Metro Vancouver gang violence between 2006 and 2010.
One other observation in the report: "Gangs are no longer based on ethnicity."