Pubdate: Thu, 26 Feb 2009
Source: Aldergrove Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Central Fraser Valley Star Publishing Ltd.


The gangster gun battles and targeted hits rocking Metro Vancouver's
streets stem from instability in the balance of power of the gangs
controlling the lucrative drug trade, according to one gang expert.

Mayhem of the type that's broken out over the past month is normally
bad business for gangs that are firmly ensconced and want stable,
consistent profits, says SFU director of criminology Rob Gordon.

He says the Hells Angels were dominant in B.C. and preferred to keep
"disciplinary actions" quiet to avoid the police and political
attention that come when the public is terrorized by broad daylight
shootings in mall parking lots and local streets.

But Gordon suspects police pursuit of the Angels in recent years has
weakened the biker gang's grip on the industry and provided an opening
for rivals to try to gain more market share.

"There's a disturbance in the force," he explains, likening successful
police crackdowns on organized crime to a game of Whack-a-Mole.

"You pound them down in one place and they'll pop up in

Gordon, a former police officer, says the B.C. organized crime scene
breaks down into three broad segments:

. Financiers and security: Hells Angels are believed to dominate this
category, financing operations, providing houses for grow-ops and
providing security. "They're concerned about the stability of their

. Growers and producers: They set up hydroponics and grow marijuana in
locations procured by the first group. They also include those who run
clandestine labs making crack cocaine and crystal meth.

. Transporters: The Fed Ex of the industry, hauling drugs to market and into
the distribution networks. Gordon says this third group often has ties to
the trucking industry and the ability to haul undetected into the U.S. and
Alberta. Planes and helicopters are also used to fly drugs into Washington
State and other schemes include the infamous tunnel dug across the border at

B.C.-grown marijuana, in large part, ends up exported to other
jurisdictions and returns to gangs here in the form of cocaine,
heroin, guns and cash.

While some ethnic groups pop up more frequently in certain facets of
the drug trade, Gordon cautions against making too much of such

"The people involved in this business pretty much mirror the cultural
mosaic of the Lower Mainland."

Unlike past outbreaks of gang violence, the recent targets have tended
to be suburban white gangsters and associates, rather than South
Asians who died in large numbers in a flurry of attacks four years

And this time Gordon says he's surprised by the intensity of recent
attacks, which have increasingly happened openly in broad daylight
with little attempt at discretion.

He also pointed to the targeting of family members of associates and
accidental killings of unintended victims, such as a car stereo
installer driving a gangster's car.

"It's the brazen nature of these attacks which is worrisome," Gordon

The Abbotsford-based Bacon brothers and their associates have been
targeted in several of the recent attacks.

Gordon calls them well-heeled upstarts who have made inroads in the
industry, likely upsetting others.

"They've obviously crossed a bunch of people," he said of the Bacons.
"And they're trying to deal with them in their own sweet manner.
Unfortunately there's a chance of innocent folks getting caught in the

Gordon says there's a steady public and media fascination with named

The Independent Soldiers, UN Gang, the gambling-linked Big Circle Boys
and the Latin American MS-13 gang are among the high-profile names.

But he says much organized crime activity here is done by unnamed

Grow-rips - in which a crop of marijuana is stolen by rivals - are a
typical scenario leading one group to punish another.

"The people who own the crop aren't going to go to the police," Gordon
said, adding they contact the "security people" and get them to pay a
visit, often to warn rather than kill.

"Sometimes it's a frightener. Sometimes it's good night."

Gordon says British Columbians shouldn't be blind to the likelihood of
some corruption within police and other agencies. He pointed to the
cases of a Canadian Border Services Agency customs guard who waved
through allied drug haulers and a prison guard who helped one gangster
walk out of prison in November 2007.

"Those are just tips of the iceberg," he said, adding any place else
in the world with drug gangs as entrenched as here also feature some
criminal justice corruption.

He calls the provincial government's high-profile promise of 168 new
officers "policy on the fly" that is more aimed at giving the
impression of action than likely of making real gains.

Gang-suppression efforts did work to quell the violence for much of
2008 after the 2007 Surrey six killings.

But Gordon says officials knew the peace would not last and he expects
the on-and-off war of the gangs is here to stay. If a short-term
policing blitz has any impact, he said, it may succeed in again
quieting the conflict for a few months - perhaps through the
provincial election - before the violence returns.

"It will go on and on," Gordon said. "It will go on for as long as
there is an illegal drug industry being run by organized crime groups."
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