Pubdate: Fri, 13 Apr 2007
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw, Times Colonist
Note: MAP archives articles exactly as published, except that our
editors may redact the names and addresses of accused persons who
have not been convicted of a crime, if those named are not otherwise
public figures or officials.


50 Officers Infiltrate One Of City's Largest Cocaine, Heroin

One of Victoria's largest illicit drug operations, a family-run
enterprise that flooded local streets with cocaine and heroin, has
been dismantled after a massive undercover operation by Victoria police.

Police say they'll be watching to see how the landscape of drug
dealing in the city shifts with the fall of one of the main suppliers.

But for now, they're basking in the success of one of the force's more
complex undercover drug stings.

Around 50 officers spent more than a month infiltrating a tight-knit
group they allege ran a brisk business ferrying hard drugs to trusted
buyers around the city. At its peak, police estimate, individual
dealers logged more than 100 calls an hour, and the group collected
more than $100,000 a month in profits.

Slowly, undercover officers earned the gang's confidence and pulled
off about 20 drug purchases, said Sgt. Grant Hamilton. The work led to
a series of raids, five arrests, and more than 50 drug charges.

"This particular operation targeted one of the busiest
drug-trafficking syndicates in the city of Victoria," said Hamilton.
"We believe they were supplying a large portion of the street drugs
that are being bought and sold."

Hamilton said the family-run business has been on police radar for
about four years. The group was particularly successful because many
of its organizers were not users themselves, he said. As well, they
were extremely cautious.

"The people they were using were very trusted," he said. "That's why
it was really difficult to infiltrate them."

A vast amount of cash and drugs moves nightly on Victoria streets. The
group allegedly sold close to one kilogram of cocaine a week (worth
about $25,000) and half a kilogram of heroin (worth around $30,000),
police estimate.

"Once we had them in custody, how busy they were became apparent to
us," said Hamilton. "One of the phones they had rang with over 100
calls just within one hour.

"They were supplying probably most of the street-level drug dealers
[and] users [in Victoria]."

When the undercover operation was completed Wednesday, officers
simultaneously raided an apartment in the 200-block of Gorge Road East
and a house in the 2900-block of Harriet Road near Gorge Road East,
and stopped a vehicle in the 500-block of Fort Street.

In all, they found $16,000 in cash, two ounces of cocaine and two
computers that investigators are scouring for records, said Hamilton.

Some of the suspects are members of the same family, while others are
connected by relationships, said police. The accused appeared in court
yesterday afternoon.

Police hope to use the courts to seize assets of the accused and
recover some costs for their complex sting operation, dubbed "Project

Despite their success, police say whether the arrests have a long-term
impact on Victoria's drug trade remains to be seen.

"We would like to hope we made a significant slowdown for sure, but
time will only tell," said Hamilton. "There's always someone who fills
that void."

Const. Conor King, a member of the department's drug squad, said the
goal is to "take out one group at a time."

It's not easy, King said, because the demand for drugs is high and the
downtown core is a mecca for severely addicted drug users, who
congregate for services, such as homeless shelters and the needle exchange.

"The No. 1 street drug is crack cocaine," he said.

But there is also still a great deal of heroin, which is particularly
vicious because withdrawal makes users feel sick. They buy heroin to
feel normal and need another drug, such as cocaine, to get a high.

Organized crime is often the main source of drugs, said King. While
Victoria doesn't have the reputation of a city like Nanaimo, where a
visible Hells Angels presence reminds residents that organized crime
is flourishing there, King said large gangs still deal drugs in
Victoria, just in a "more covert" way.
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MAP posted-by: Derek