HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Organized Crime Hurts Everyone
Pubdate: Fri, 10 Sep 2004
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Times Colonist
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


It's time to get tough with the criminal activity that is consuming
more of our economy

You don't use illegal drugs, deal with shady characters, or even buy
souvenir T-shirts that celebrate the Hells Angels -- so why should you
care about organized crime in B.C.?

Because it's all around us, that's why. Organized crime is costing us
money and threatening our safety, and it's so well hidden that most of
us wouldn't recognize it if we saw it.

That's why the Times Colonist is launching a series of special reports
today, taking a look at organized crime. It's a much bigger problem
than many British Columbians would care to admit, and it will be tough
to knock it down -- but it's in our best interest to give it a try.

The most common organized crime in B.C. is growing marijuana. There
are many others, including making and selling chemical drugs,
trafficking heroin or cocaine, smuggling goods or people,
prostitution, loan-sharking, and credit card fraud.

It's hard to say what it's all worth. The Vancouver Police Department
estimates the total economic impact of organized crime is $1.8 billion
to $2.7 billion a year, while an economics professor at Simon Fraser
University says the value of the marijuana crop alone is more like $4
billion. Published estimates go as high was 28 per cent of the
province's gross domestic product.

Even the lowest number is shockingly high.

How does this affect you, the honest citizen?

Every time someone steals electricity to run a grow-op, you're paying
for it through your electrical bill. Every time your neighbours fail
to pay tax on their illicit income, you're subsidizing them through
your own tax bill.

Every time a house is bought to be used as a grow-op, there's one
fewer house on the market for legitimate buyers, which in turn drives
up the price. If enough houses are taken off the market in this way,
families looking for affordable housing will be priced out of contention.

Every time people find that organized crime offers a relatively easy
and tax-free source of income, there is less incentive for them to
enter the legitimate job market. That's a big problem in B.C., because
we're facing major labour shortages in many trades.

Every time a business is set up to launder money, it hurts similar
businesses in the area. It's hard to compete with a business that can
draw its profits from illegal activities.

Many legitimate businesses are able to survive only because some of
their customers deal in the shadows. Many businesses that sell
everything from high-end vehicles to lights for grow-ops have, whether
they would admit it or not, a vested interest in the underground economy.

So for many honest people, it's easier to adopt a don't-ask, don't-see
policy than to risk losing their way of life. And that is one of the
problems facing the authorities who are trying to crack down on
organized crime.

We need to get tough, however, on organized crime. As TC readers will
see over the next five weeks, the cost of inaction is simply too high.
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