Pubdate: Thu, 04 Nov 2004
Source: Prince Rupert Daily News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Sterling Newspapers Ltd.
Author: James Vassallo
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Outlaw Bikers)


A conference on organized crime in the city yesterday had a clear
message -- organized crime is present in Canada, in British Columbia
and Prince Rupert.

Organized crime is defined by the Criminal Code as three or more
people coming together to commit more than one crime with the intent
to gain from it.

"Criminals are motivated by money, power and status ... particularly
when it comes to organized criminals," said Dick Bent, Chief
Superintendent, Federal Deputy Criminal Operations Officer. "While
there is some degree of specialization ... generally they will go to
where the profits are."

In the world of organized crime there is a continuum, he said. Those
at the top of the chain direct criminal activities for those in the
middle who in turn use those on the street level to funnel funds back
up to the top.

"There's a link between what's happening on the streets of Prince
Rupert and organized crime groups across Canada," said Bent.

Specifically, Bent cites the Hell's Angels, who were active in Rupert
prior to the mill closure and continue to have a presence on the Queen
Charlotte Islands, who are rumoured to be setting up new chapter
locally in anticipation of the container port.

"That is an opportunity for organized crime ... because you have
thousands of containers going through a port" he said. "That's why
it's so important for police to work with the [Canadian Border Service
Agency - CBSA] to ensure we're ahead of the curve."

There was a long-standing rumour that the Hell's Angels ran the Port
of Vancouver, something that affected the reputation of that facility
until RCMP were able to conclusively show it was untrue.

"They have some influence there, but they do not control the port,"
said Bent. "We spent a lot of time doing a threat assessment and
really seeing what's going on down there."

Locally, additional police from Prince George have been called in to
monitor the Rupert situation, so it doesn't get to that point.

Also present in Rupert are know gangs with links to Lower Mainland
organizations involved in cocaine, heroin and money-laundering.

"We know there's Asian organized crime groups in Prince Rupert," he
said. "We're very aware of that and watching it closely."

Identity Theft and counterfeiting -- which are up 1,100 per cent in
B.C. on last year -- are also widespread.

Counterfeiting activities don't just keep to cash but also include car
parts and even batteries.

"If you're buying Duracell batteries for a $1.45 and they're $7.50
every where else, they're not Duracell's," said Bent. "This is very

Organized crime groups in Rupert have also historically been involved
in the flesh trade, bringing under-aged girls out to ships in the
harbour among other things, he said.

With the large amounts of heroin and cocaine that come from the Far
East, B.C. organized crime also has a natural connection to Quebec
organized crime.

"They're contracted to bring in huge amounts of drugs," said Bent.
"This is a high level collaboration."

One of the biggest impacts on B.C. is the number of marijuana grow
operations, estimated conservatively at 20,000, across the province.

"Unfortunately, Canada has the distinction of growing high quality
marijuana that sells for a great deal in the U.S," he said. "I guess
we've done a good job at marketing B.C. bud."

In the city of Surrey alone there are 1,200 grow ops known by the
RCMP, but police only have the resources to bust 200 a year. The
extensive illegal activity has led the U.S. Drug Czar to list Canada
as a country of concern in America's War on Drugs. Marijuana is the
third biggest contributor to B.C.'s economy after forestry and fishing.

In rural areas, RCMP are seeing a greater sophistication in operations
including underground growing bunkers. While pot may seem like a
"soft" drug, police worry about a litany of violent crimes associated
with grow ops including homicides and home invasions.

"We know of a couple of examples where the people going to do rip-offs
have kicked in the wrong door," said Bent.

However, the extent of the violence related to grow ops is unknown
because those involved generally aren't the sort of people to report
problems to the police, he said. Bent notes an instance where a Prince
George man recently had his hand cut-off by what police suspect was an
organized crime member. But, no one is talking.

Organized crime is also heavily involved in auto theft and a wide
range of "white collar" crime including telemarketing and stock

What may be needed for the public to address the organized crime
problem is the sort of outrage experienced by Quebec residents after a
hit from one organized crime group on another went wrong.

"What really turned the tide was when a car bomb blew up to kill a
rival gang member and it killed an 11-year-old boy," said Bent.

That, in combination with the attempted assassination of a Montreal
Journal reporter named Michel Auger who was investigating organized
crime, led the Quebec government to be more aggressive in dealing with
the problem, he said.

The crime conference was put on by the RCMP, federal solicitor general
and The People's Law School, an independent, non-profit society which
can be found online at
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