Pubdate: Tue, 12 Apr 2016
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Page: A7
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network
Author: Reid Southwick


Lethbridge police said Monday they are "well aware" of two feuding 
gangs previously linked to a drug turf war in the region, but they do 
not believe the public is at risk.

The assurance comes after an investigator with Blood Tribe police 
warned that violence between these two gangs will likely get worse.

Const. Drew Kanyo said the Bloods and the Crips, rival groups not 
associated with notorious Los Angeles gangs, have become increasingly 
involved in the illicit drug trade on the Blood reserve and in nearby 

Kanyo said these groups have been known for brutal attacks on the 
reserve, resulting in "plenty of open skulls," a level of violence he 
believes Lethbridge and the Blood Tribe will see more of in the near future.

The Blood Tribe's chief and council said band authorities continue to 
"wage war on the drug abuse and dealers," having taken many steps to 
clamp down on the drug trade and treat addictions.

Lethbridge police said members of the Bloods and Crips do not pose a 
threat to public safety because they are known to attack each other. 
Deputy Chief Colin Catonio said there has been a "minor spike" in 
gang violence, but he stopped short of calling it a long-term trend, 
adding "we need to wait and see how some of this plays out."

Catonio said in an interview the conflict between members of the 
Bloods and Crips was behind a recent pepper spray attack that led to 
the evacuation of a local mall. He said there have been one or two 
other recent "dustups" between the groups, but police do not view 
their conflict as a growing problem.

Lethbridge police have come across people associating themselves with 
the Bloods and the Crips for more than 10 years, but there is "no 
sophistication or structure" linked to them, Catonio said.

"This is just groups of people that for whatever reason have directed 
violence toward one another," he said. "We're well aware of who the 
groups are ... and we lay charges when we have the evidence."

In the pepper spray incident, a 26-year-old man and his friends were 
at the Park Place Mall in downtown Lethbridge on March 12, when they 
were approached by another group of men, including one who brandished a knife.

The 26-year-old fled for an exit, but he was pepper-sprayed by one of 
the men who chased him. Due to the fumes, the mall was closed and evacuated.

Police have issued warrants for Shay Vincent Saddle Back, 21, and Ian 
Tyler Raine, 21, both of no fixed address, in connection with the 
pepper spray incident. They're both wanted for assault with a weapon 
and wearing a disguise while committing an offence, among other charges.

Police are attempting to identify two others believed to be involved 
in the attack.

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman said he has "every confidence" in 
local police who are targeting drugs and gang activity.

"We're doing a lot of the right things here and we are focusing on 
limiting people who sell this garbage in our city," Spearman said.

Kanyo said his sources in the drug trade told him that dealers in 
Lethbridge have increasingly turned to methamphetamine and have 
called that city "Methbridge."

Lethbridge police say meth in that city is on the rise, but cocaine 
and fentanyl, a painkiller linked to hundreds of deaths in Alberta, 
are bigger concerns for investigators.

Catonio said the "Methbridge" term appears to have originated in a 
Lethbridge Herald story, but police have not heard anyone else in the 
city say it.

The Blood Tribe's chief and council said police, health workers, 
tribal government officials and others meet regularly to plot their 
response to the reserve's drug crisis. Local police have also placed 
high priority on drug files and are authorized by a band council 
resolution to banish dealers from the reserve.

In a statement, the band's chief and council said they are pleased 
that local authorities have been "vigilant in dealing with these 
negative impacts that have created much turmoil in our community."

"The health and well-being of community members is of utmost 
importance," the band said in its statement, "and efforts to keep out 
drugs and gang activity on the reserve will continue for as long as 
it takes to assure we have a safe community." 
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