Pubdate: Tue, 15 Jan 2008
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 Fort McMurray Today
Author: Chuck Chiang
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


The growing oil wealth in Alberta is drawing business enterprises -- 
legal or otherwise -- to the province's north, police officials in 
Edmonton said.

An officer in charge of the Edmonton Police Service's gang, hate 
crimes and undercover unit section, said law enforcement knows of at 
least two individuals with suspected gang links moving recently from 
Eastern Canada to the Fort McMurray/Grande Prairie region.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Galvin said that the move is part of a wave of gang 
members moving into Alberta to take advantage of the current economic 
boom, which is creating a strong market for cocaine and other illegal 

"Alberta's stuck in one of the hottest economies in the world, most 
certainly in the nation and in North America," Galvin said. "Gangs 
are criminal enterprises. For every legal business, there's supply 
and demand, and illegal businesses run the same way."

Edmonton Police has had specific groups investigating gang activities 
since 1977, and Galvin said they have established strong information 
networks that allow them to track large-scale movements.

The recent trend, he added, is that gang members are using the City 
of Champions as a jump-off point to tap into the drug markets in 
places like Fort McMurray, where high wage levels have spurred demand.

"Our metro gang unit is integrated with the RCMP, so we're conscious 
of the migration of gang members, not only to Alberta's north, but to 
Northern Canada, as well," Galvin said.

Cocaine remains the key substance being trafficked, although 
officials said marijuana is also being traded as a fundamental 
business enterprise.

Fort McMurray RCMP declined to discuss specific cases or individuals 
they are investigating, but the trend of gang members moving to town 
isn't surprising, said Const. Martin Gaudet.

"With the amount of growth we've seen, it's really not worse or 
better than any city here, whether it's Edmonton (or) Grande 
Prairie," Gaudet said. "We're attracting a lot of attention, a lot of 
good but also a lot of bad."

The local detachment has been active recently in pursuing the growing 
drug trade.

The group conducted Project Kraze, a six-week undercover operation 
that led to 11 arrests, last June. The operation led to charges 
involving the trafficking of ecstasy and cocaine, and police found 
what they suspected to be a methamphetamine lab.

Galvin said there hasn't been a large increase in gang-related 
violence yet, but added police are concerned about what would happen 
if the economy slowed.

"When there's a downturn, the number of consumers shrink," he said.
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