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B.C. gang task force issues warning as violence intensifies

Police have issued a warning to anyone associated with the Duhre or Dhak groups that they could be in danger from gang violence. Seen here is a 2009 crime scene of a B.C. gangland shooting.

One month after Red Scorpions leader Jonathan Bacon was gunned down outside a posh waterfront resort, and just a few days after a brazen shooting on a Surrey street, B.C.'s gang task force warned the public that Lower Mainland gang tensions and violence are heating up.

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, which operates the gang task force, held a news conference Tuesday to issue a public warning to anyone linked to an organization police called the Duhre and Dhak group. The unit said it has reason to believe those close to the group could still be at risk after a shooting Friday that critically wounded one of its associates.

Police conceded the warning was unusual, but said they had little choice because of the possibility a girlfriend, family member, or someone else loosely linked to the group – or even an innocent member of the public – would be caught in the crossfire.

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"I'm not trying to instill fear in the citizens," said Superintendent Tom McCluskie, who leads the gang task force. "But certainly there's enough tension that we're concerned that there will be a retaliation, that there will be further violence.

"It's not the general public that they're after. It's each other. What I'm concerned about is the public venues by which they display their violence."

Supt. McCluskie was vague on what may have sparked Friday's shooting, or whether it was linked to Mr. Bacon's killing in Kelowna in August.

"It's a little bit too early into the investigation into the shooting in Surrey on Friday night to say that it's directly related to the Kelowna shooting. But we are examining that angle of it. As it sits right now, we haven't made any confirmed connection."

Supt. McCluskie said 80 investigators are working around the clock. He did not indicate when the threat of violence might be curtailed and said a number of groups are in conflict at the moment.

He declined to provide further details on the Duhre and Dhak group and its activities.

A police spokesman told The Globe and Mail last December that the Duhre group rose to prominence in the Fraser Valley after the leaders of gangs such as the Red Scorpions and United Nations were arrested.

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A man named Gurmit Dhak was killed last year in a mall parking lot in what police at the time called a targeted hit.

When asked whether Tuesday's warning might increase the Duhre and Dhak group's influence, Supt. McCluskie said public safety trumped that risk.

"If that's part of the process, and if that's one of the products of doing this, so be it."

He would not comment on what information police received to indicate the Duhre and Dhak group might still be at risk.

Supt. McCluskie has been with the unit for two years and said this was the first public warning he has issued.

"We don't do this every day, but we take this very seriously. Given the growing gang tensions and potential for violence in the Lower Mainland, we want to assure the public that every effort is being made to get ahead of this violence should it erupt again in our streets."

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Police in Abbotsford issued a similar warning in 2008 to anyone associated with the three Bacon brothers who led the Red Scorpions.

A gang war plagued the Lower Mainland in early 2009, with shootings a near-daily occurrence.

Supt. McCluskie said he was in Kelowna last week and was pleased with how the investigation into Mr. Bacon's death was proceeding. He could not say when an arrest might be made.

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