Pubdate: Tue, 11 Nov 2003
Source: Business In Vancouver (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 BIV Publications Ltd.
Author: Peter Mitham
Bookmark: (Outlaw Bikers)


New book claims 43 biker members and associates toil at port, but RCMP
says authors' report blown out of proportion

Local business leaders aren't concerned about claims the Vancouver
waterfront has been infiltrated extensively by organized crime.

In The Road to Hell, a new book on motorcycle gang activity in Canada,
authors Julian Sher and William Marsden claim 43 of about 100 members
and associates of the Hells Angels motorcycle club work at the Port of

Hells Angels established four chapters on the West Coast in the early
1980s, focusing on cocaine and marijuana exports. By 2000, the
organization had expanded to seven Lower Mainland chapters involved in
activities ranging from pornography to cell phone and motorcycle
sales, Sher and Marsden claim. The B.C. contingent is the
third-largest in Canada.

"The articles themselves, obviously, are concerning to us," said Chris
Badger, vice-president, operations with Vancouver Port Authority,
noting he'd read only the stories in the daily media and not Sher and
Marsden's book.

While the federal Criminal Intelligence Service Canada calls organized
crime at marine ports Canada's sixth most significant intelligence
priority in its 2003 annual report, Badger said neither local nor
federal law enforcement bodies have voiced concerns about biker
activity on the Vancouver waterfront.

"For a number of years now, we have suggested that if there's a real
serious issue there, then there should be an inquiry into it," Badger
said. "We're not receiving that kind of feedback from the enforcement

Port authorities have previously resisted allegations of widespread
criminal activity.

As far back as 1995, Sergeant Bob Byam of the now-disbanded
Coordinated Law Enforcement Unit told officials at the port of the
foothold organized crime had gained on the waterfront.

"The port corporation was under the impression there was little if any
crime," Byam told the North Shore News in December 1995. "We brought
it to their attention. It's not as insignificant."

But Badger was adamant the port's surveillance, fencing, gate and
lighting systems are keeping the port secure. He added that the
federal government committed $12 million for upgrades to port security
in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in
September 2001, heightening the port's security.

One improvement has been identity cards for port workers, but Sher and
Marsden claimed only 121 were screened for security purposes. The
carding program was launched in 2002 at the cruise ship terminal and
expanded to other parts of the port on January 1, 2003.

Badger said 8,000 cards have been issued to date, covering the
majority of regular port visitors.

"The level of security now is a lot better than it was in the past and
it will continue to get better into the future," Badger said. "We do
believe that we do have a very safe, secure efficient port here."

RCMP Inspector Doug Kiloh, major case manager responsible for ports,
described the picture of the port in Road to Hell as

"It's out of proportion with the reality," he said, arguing that Hells
Angels members alleged to be working at the port represent less than
one per cent of the port's entire workforce.

"We are not in a difficult situation compared to some places in the

Kiloh said the West Coast ports all face the same problem, and that
Vancouver is no worse than any other Pacific port in North America.

Tom Dufresne, national president of the Canadian wing of the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which has 3,000 workers
at the port, agreed that allegations of organized criminal activity on
the Vancouver waterfront are overblown.

Sher and Marsden said Hells Angels members in the mid-1990s included
Al Debruyn and Robert Robinson, who were foremen at the Roberts Bank

Ralph Steffenhagen, vice-president, liner operations and logistics,
with Westward Shipping Ltd. in Vancouver, said his company had never
had trouble moving cargo through Vancouver, which handled 12 million
tonnes of container shipments in 2002.

"Our shipments are going through without any particular incident," he
said, praising security measures adopted by the Vancouver Port
Authority and the Fraser River Port Authority.

Similarly, Werner Knittel, B.C. division vice-president with the
Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said companies aren't rerouting
shipments from Vancouver because of crime fears.

While Knittel said any breach of port security is a serious concern,
U.S. regulations have forced Vancouver to make container shipments
more secure. "If [U.S. authorities] feel any port is not guaranteeing
that those containers are safe and are not being tampered with, that
could have serious repercussions. We haven't seen anything yet, but
the Americans are highly sensitive."

But he said even the U.S. ports have had difficulties.

"If you look back at the history of the U.S. waterfront, the Jimmy
Hoffa days, they're not exactly innocent themselves. Waterfronts
around the world are notorious for being where organized crime can get
their fingers in," Knittel said.

Port of Seattle spokesman Mick Shultz said organized crime isn't an
issue at Washington state ports, citing his experience both in Seattle
and at Tacoma. "It's just not something we've experienced," he said.
"Motorcycle gangs in the U.S. tend to be involved in other

Vancouver Police media liaison Constable Sarah Bloor said the Hells
Angels are a significant group, but only one of several that concern
the municipal force. "I wouldn't say that it's one specific group but
there are organized crime elements that we continually try to
dismantle," she said.

Bloor refused to comment on Sher and Marsden's work, noting Road to
Hell is "a book for profit," but she said there has been "some
successful projects" countering organized crime.

Not all the information behind these initiatives is shared with all
stakeholders, Bloor said, because of the work's sensitive nature. The
book authors said Hells Angels businesses in the Lower Mainland
included bike shops, cell phone outlets and real estate, construction
and waste disposal companies. They are also involved in sex-related
businesses and the drug trade. 
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