Gang violence easily crosses municipal boundaries - but police in Metro Vancouver do not.
The brutal killing of six people in a Surrey high-rise last week was the most recent in a spate of violence in the region in the past two months.
Two gunmen in August opened fire on a table of nine at the east Vancouver restaurant Fortune Happiness, killing two and injuring six. A month later, a masked gunman fired several shots at 25 people celebrating a birthday at Quattro on Fourth, a swank restaurant on the west side of Vancouver. Two people were injured.
The Surrey high-rise is a 35-minute drive from Fortune Happiness, and less than an hour from Quattro on Fourth.
However, the Vancouver Police Department is investigating the two restaurant shootings; the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, a partnership formed by several other municipal police departments and the RCMP detachments in Metro Vancouver, is responsible for the Surrey investigation.
Vancouver is an anomaly in Canada, Rob Gordon, director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University, said yesterday in an interview. "We are the last large metro area in Canada to not have a metro police service."
Criminals continue their crime rampages without detection for a longer period of time in regions where policing has not been unified, he said.
"When you have a disjointed operation across a region or district like Metro Vancouver, you are going to have inefficiencies," Dr. Gordon said, citing problems with sharing information and co-ordinating policing efforts.
"Organized crime groups don't give a damn about police boundaries or municipal boundaries. They are operating across the region and across the province," he said. "There should have been a regional police service in Vancouver area years ago."
However, spokesmen for both the Vancouver police and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said they did not anticipate the jurisdictional divide would hinder their efforts to nab the criminals.
RCMP Superintendent Wayne Rideout, the officer in charge of the integrated team, said in an interview that the group was formed in 2003 in recognition that gang activity crossed jurisdictions, causing huge problems, especially for smaller police forces without the resources to investigate the crimes.
The integrated team is a collaborative effort of four municipal police forces in Metro Vancouver and more than 20 RCMP detachments. Vancouver and Delta are the only municipalities that are not part of the team. The policing agency will have 88 homicide detectives by its fifth anniversary in April of 2008. Forty-eight investigators were assigned to the Surrey case this week.
Supt. Rideout said the integrated team works well with Vancouver police. "[Vancouver]has a professional and more than competent homicide squad," he said, adding that the two policing agencies regularly share intelligence.
He cautioned against assuming that the incidents in Surrey and Vancouver are linked. "It's far too early to say. That is something we will be looking at. But if there is linkage, we will find it."
Vancouver has more than 20 people assigned to homicide within its major crime section, Constable Tim Fanning of the Vancouver Police Department said. "We have all the expertise, infrastructure and economies of scale needed to make having our own homicide squad appropriate," he said.
The integrated team creates economies of scale for smaller departments. "The bottom line is that the business case isn't compelling for us to formally join [the integrated team]"