Pubdate: Wed, 21 Dec 2016
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2016 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Barb Pacholik
Page: A1


Homicides, shooting linked to groups bringing drugs, guns into

Police believe at least two Regina homicides and a shooting in a
crowded restaurant are among the fallout from an increasingly violent
threat posed by outsiders bringing guns and drugs into the city.

The Mounties and Regina Police Service joined forces to roll out the
unwelcome mat for the unwanted guests, recently concluding a 90-day
project targeting drug trafficking as well as the weapons and
shootings that accompany the trade. What it revealed is that many of
the 60 people arrested on 443 charges, including trafficking,
possession of stolen property, and multiple weapons offences, aren't
from here. They dropped in from locales such as Edmonton, Fort
Saskatchewan, Fort McMurray and Toronto.

Typically, they set up shop at a hotel for a few days, distribute
their illicit wares, and leave - only to make a return visit to cash
in on a lucrative market.

RCMP Insp. Rob Thorarinson, in charge of the combined forces special
enforcement unit in Saskatchewan, said the investigation netted one
person in Regina on drug charges who was also wanted for attempted
murder in Ontario. "That's an example of a person that's coming here
we believe specifically to bring in and profit from the drug trade in
Saskatchewan," he said during Tuesday's news conference.

"We've got enough of that problem to begin with. We don't need anyone
coming in from another jurisdiction and certainly not somebody that is
facing serious charges like that," he said, adding it's a problem that
isn't unique to Regina.

Asked if it's creating turf wars with the city's established drug
dealers, Insp. Darcy Koch of the Regina Police Service conceded there
may be "some pushback."

"I won't say turf war, but I'll say definitely there's some conflict,"
Koch added.

Koch said the outsiders aren't specifically part of a gang, but are
rather a loose group of associates that know each other and come from
another city.

Asked about the level of violence associated with this scenario, Koch
said homicide victims in two cases under active investigation are
believed to have come from these "associate groups."

Koch also pointed to an August shooting that left a man wounded when a
lone gunman opened fire inside the crowded Viet-Trung Garden restaurant.

"Is there association to these types of individuals? Yes there is,"
Koch said Tuesday.

"And we continue to work through the information that comes forward."
He urged anyone who knows anything to tell police.

During the 90-day initiative, police seized 1,700 grams of cocaine,
600 grams of meth, 200 grams of marijuana, smaller amounts of ecstasy
and heroin, $40,000 worth of stolen property, $107,000 cash, and 11
firearms including sawed-off weapons and handguns.

"Any gun off the street is going to create greater public safety,"
said Koch, who noted not a week went by without an arrest.

"When one group was identified ... and some arrests were made, it
didn't take long for another group to fill that void," he said.

"That's what we're battling. And we're trying to disrupt and displace
those individuals."

Koch said Regina officers have seen an increasing amount of cocaine
and meth since 2013. He couldn't pinpoint why, but it does coincide
with the province's oil boom. Officers doing routine traffic stops are
regularly coming across drugs and firearms in the vehicle.

He hopes initiatives like this recent one send a message.

"You can't operate if the police are always stopping your vehicles,
inquiring about why you're here. It's hard to conduct your business
when the police know about you," said Koch. "And we're trying to
conduct enforcement on you."

Unfortunately, he added, as soon as there's a gap, "it's pretty much
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