Pubdate: Fri, 10 Nov 2017
Source: Kamloops This Week (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Kamloops This Week
Author: Christopher Foulds


A quarter-century ago, Abbotsford had its moment of clarity with
respect to drugs and gangs.

After repeated denials by the city's municipal police department that
gangs were active in the Fraser Valley city, the truth was laid bare
when 18-year-old Kirby Martin was shot and killed in a parking lot of
a mall along the city's main strip, South Fraser Way.

His death was followed by acknowledgment from police that gangs were
indeed part of life in the city and many community forums followed.

Despite the forums and subsequent years of warnings about the dangers
of gang life, youth in Abbotsford and beyond continued to become
gangsters, with Martin's Yale gang and the rival Countess gang
spawning today's United Nations and Red Scorpions criminal

Martin was killed in September 1990 and nothing has changed in
Abbotsford, which is today known as much for its regular slayings of
mostly young men as for its world-famous raspberries.

Has Kamloops had its moment of clarity with respect to gangs and
drug-related violence?

Under a previous command, the Kamloops RCMP maintained that gangs that
infested Kelowna, Vernon and the Lower Mainland had not established
roots here, mainly due to intense police pressure. We later learned at
least one gang, the Independent Soldiers under Kamloops leader Jayme
Russell, had been here for some time.

So, with the rash of gunplay in Kamloops in the past two months and
shootings stretching into last year, the question is on the lips of
many: Is the violence linked to gangs? If so, which ones? If not, what
the hell is happening in the Tournament Capital?

RCMP Supt. Brad Mueller heard the chatter and held a press conference
this week to discuss what appears to many to be a Wild West mentality
seizing the streets.

He said while many are fighting to control the drug trade,
particularly in the wake of the September killing of Red Scorpions
co-founder Konaam Shirzad, no gangs have established a foothold in

Mueller expressed frustration at the speed at which those arrested are
released from custody, while local politicians and others have asked
whether there are enough officers stationed in the city.

But here's the stone cold fact: Longer stints in prison and more
Mounties will not change what is happening.

Stiffer prison sentences and beefed-up police forces have not worked
during the decades-long failed war on drugs, so why are we still
employing this definition of insanity when watching the bullets fly,
the addictions grow and the dealers getting richer?

Sure, more cops may result in more arrests today. And tougher
sentences may lead to longer prison terms tomorrow. But that will only
create another vacuum so lucrative that people will literally risk
their lives trying to fill it, as they have been doing for decades in
B.C. and beyond.

Prohibition has created wealthy bad guys since the 1920s and, until we
realize prohibition is the root problem of the crime and addiction
plaguing our society, no amount of uniformed men and women or prison
cells will change that.

Want to really attempt to stop the carnage? Decriminalize all drugs
and start prescribing to users. Begin there and work into the next
steps of detox and rehab.

Portugal did just that in 2001 as it battled a losing

 From the Cato Institute report of 2009: "By freeing its citizens from
the fear of prosecution and imprisonment for drug usage, Portugal has
dramatically improved its ability to encourage drug addicts to avail
themselves of treatment. The resources that were previously devoted to
prosecuting and imprisoning drug addicts are now available to provide
treatment programs to addicts."

A 2014 policy paper by the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental
Health confirmed Portugal has seen a reduction in substance abuse,
drug-related harm and illicit drug use by adolescents.

The journey will be shaky as hell, but what do we have to

Can it get any worse than what we are now facing with our long
outdated approach to the issue?
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt