Pubdate: Thu, 18 Jan 2018
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2018 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Joseph Brean
Page: A3


Homicide rate rising to levels not seen in years

The Vancouver shooting death of an innocent teenage boy caught in the
crossfire of a drug gang shootout has revived fears of gang war in
British Columbia's Lower Mainland.

"We are targeting gangs as we speak," said Adam Palmer, chief of the
Vancouver Police Department, as he announced the death of two people,
including one of the gunmen, in a wild shootout just after 9 p. m. on
a busy city street last Saturday.

The deaths come as Vancouver's annual homicide rate is rising to
levels not seen in the nearly 10 years since the major gang war that
pitted the Red Scorpions gang, in alliance with the arch-criminal
Bacon brothers, against the established United Nations gang, in a
fight for the drug trade.

As an organized crime conflict that spilled out onto public streets
and threatened the lives of innocent Canadians, that war was rivalled
only by the Montreal biker turf wars of the late 1990s between the
Hells Angels and the Rock Machine, and the more recent conflict
between the Malvern Crew and Galloway Boys in Toronto.

As ever, the battleground shifts just as much as the players. In
Vancouver, those players include established gangs like the
Independent Soldiers, as well as outlaw motorcycle gangs like the
Hells Angels, and other ethnic based crime syndicates. But they also
increasingly include other actors, sometimes with far greater criminal

There is, for example, increasingly interplay with Mexican cartels,
some of which have even sent representatives to Canada to monitor
their interests, including money laundering and drugs.

There are also allegiances and feuds with various Alberta

It is not clear how the Saturday night shootout might fit into those
broader gangland dynamics, but that is a focus of investigators. The
Vancouver Police Department has put more than 50 officers on the case,
supported by the anti-gang Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.

One of the people killed Saturday night was a gangster, Kevin
Whiteside, 23, who was known to police. He participated in the
shootout at a busy intersection, Palmer said, and died after being
shot. The other shooter or shooters managed to escape.

The Vancouver Sun reported Whiteside was under a lifetime firearms ban
with convictions for assault with a weapon, possession of drugs for
the purpose of trafficking, break and enter. It cited sources
identifying him as a "fairly low-level" drug dealer in the notorious
Downtown Eastside.

The other, "a young, innocent, 15-year-old boy from Coquitlam," as
Palmer described him, was identified as Alfred Wong, a member of a
Christian church, and a student at Pinetree Secondary School, who swam
and worked as a lifeguard. A friend remembered him in a web posting as
a "strong, smart, and loyal person."

A third man was also injured and treated at the scene. His face was
grazed by a bullet that left a hole in the headrest of the car in
which he was a passenger. The driver's side rear window also had a
bullet hole through it.

Ralph, as he identified himself to media, said he saw a shooter on one
side of the car, and there were holes in the other, meaning he had
been directly in the crossfire.

Police have recently warned the general public about the danger posed
by specific gang members, often because the members are at constant
risk of assassination in drive-by shootings that can kill bystanders.

In late December, for example, Gavinder Grewal, 30, was killed in a
targeted hit in North Vancouver. He had been facing trial on a
manslaughter charge, due to begin this week.

Months previously, police warned the public about Grewal's brothers,
saying they lived a "criminal lifestyle that includes violence, drugs
and weapons," and they pose a risk of "significant harm" to anyone who
associates with them."

"Our message to gangs, and it's a similar message that we've had in
Vancouver for a long time, is that we go after gangs aggressively in
Vancouver," Palmer said. "That has been our focus for many years. We
are targeting gangs as we speak and there's been several major
projects just in the last couple of months that we've reported to you
where we've arrested gang members with firearms and fentanyl and for
all kinds of violent offences and we're continuing to target gang
members and when they engage in this type of activity in the city
we're going to come after them aggressively."
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