The new head of B.C.’s anti-gang agency says police have made “significant headway in the efforts to curtail gang activity.”
Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit chief officer Kevin Hackett said earlier this month that the “significant decline” in organized crime homicides comes after a series of high-profile investigations leading to charges, as well as new initiatives to prevent or reduce gang membership.
Nearly 100 organized crime figures or gang-related individuals were arrested and charged last year with more than 270 offences in close to 30 B.C. communities, Hackett said.
In Cranbrook, gang activity, particularly in the drug trade, is down, after intense police work.
Four years ago, RCMP intervened in a feud between two rival Cranbrook gangs, that had burst out into the open with the shooting of one gang member in front of the Sam Steele Hotel in Cranbrook, in Oct. 2009.
Victim Chad Everett Munroe was shot several times in the dispute between two rival groups, but survived. The violence in Cranbrook was part of what police there described as a war for control of the Kootenay drug trade between rival gangs, with significant links to organized crime throughout the Kootenay and southern Alberta regions.
In May of 2010, likely as result of the shooting and the ongoing feud, two innocent people — Leanne MacFarlane and Jeffrey Taylor — were murdered in a Mayook cabin just east of Cranbrook.
The murder was a likely case of mistaken identity. A previous occupant of the property was one of the assailants connected with the Sam Steele Hotel shooting.
The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit launched an undercover investigation — using an undercover agent, a lifelong criminal who agreed to work with the RCMP. At a high level RCMP news conference in November, 2010, in Cranbrook, revealed that the feud between the two factions of organized crime in the city was behind four arrests in a complex murder conspiracy case.
“Organized crime is insidious and has no rules, morals, ethics or loyalty. No community is immune, either from the presence of organized crime or the violence that it perpetrates,” said Sgt. Shinder Kirk of the RCMP Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in Kelowna (CFSEU) at that conference.
“During the course of this investigation, two innocent victims lost their lives. While we can’t speculate on the motive behind that tragedy, the intended victim, a 39 year old Cranbrook man, was once an occupant of the home,” said Kirk.
It was believed the double murder has significant links to organized crime groups and gangs in southern B.C. and Alberta as well to an outlaw motorcycle group in metro Vancouver, he said.
Inspector Brian Edmondson, officer in command of the Cranbrook and Kimberley detachments at the time, issued a warning to the criminal gangs operating in Cranbrook.
“This type of activity is unacceptable in our community. I have not only committed resources from the Cranbrook detachment, but can also draw on the combined resources from across the province. This is a message to those that engage in crime that not only do they have to be concerned about their rivals, but also the united efforts of law enforcement.”
The conspiracy to commit murder trial was eventually moved to Kamloops. In the spring of 2013, three Cranbrook men convicted in the complex murder plot were sentenced to terms ranging from five and a half to 12 years. Lonnie Adams, Colin Correia, and Lorne Carry were all convicted by a jury in April, 2013, of counselling to kill rival drug dealer Doug Mahon in 2009.
Carry and Correia were also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, while Adams was acquitted on that count.
In August, 2014, RCMP reported that crime was down in all areas in Cranbrook. In a presentation before Cranbrook City Council, Sgt. Brendan McKenna said that of particular note, the drug file charges which were significantly less in this particular quarter compared to the previous quarter in 2013. It shows that is is down 68 per cent, from 19 charges in 2013 to six charges in 2014.
“From my conversation with the corporal in charge of that drug enforcement unit that’s been active here for a couple of years says that essentially most of this is due to the fact that the bigger players have been removed from the street and locked up,” he said. “So this really shows the effect of crime reduction in that area.”
Corporal Chris Newel of the Kimberley RCMP recently told Kimberley council that drug activity was also down in that community, thanks to efforts of local RCMP.
In Vancouver last week, Hackett said he was optimistic the CFSEU’s edgy End Gang Life campaign (endganglife.ca) will help persuade more gang members to reform. It plays on the emotions of gangsters with imagery of loved ones left behind after they’re dead.