New anti-gang tactics go B.C.-wide

Provincial government orders standardized approach by police forces to fight organized crime

Chief Supt. Kevin Hackett of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit

Emerging police tactics to disrupt gangs that have helped fight violent crime in the Lower Mainland will be applied province-wide.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said mandatory provincial standards are being developed that will require all police forces and partner agencies to work together under an anti-gang policing model that targets prolific high-risk offenders.

It’s been evolving for about three years but top Mounties say the goal is to ensure the same methods of intelligence sharing and anti-gang enforcement are used across the province, so a Lower Mainland gang meets the same resistance when it tries to stretch its tentacles out to northeastern B.C. or the Okanagan.

“My goal is to attack them where they are in the northeast part of the province, in the centre of the province and in the Lower Mainland simultaneously,” RCMP E Division Asst. Comm. Wayne Rideout explained.

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The predictive intelligence-driven model helps officers make arrests and seize weapons.

But he said the new model can also shape police strategy in dealing with specific criminals by helping officers determine which ones may be ready to exit gang life as well as those who are junior members now but destined to become leaders.

“We want to disrupt their current trajectory and we want to disrupt them years before they achieve power and influence,” Rideout said, describing it as a long-term “campaign approach” to tackling gangs.

Chief Supt. Kevin Hackett of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said the model proved its value earlier this year when Surrey, Delta and Abbotsford police worked together to counter street-level gangs that were on a public shooting spree in Surrey and Delta.

“These collaborative efforts resulted in over 5,000 people being checked, 700 people being arrested or detained, along with the seizure of 22 firearms and 134 vehicles,” Hackett said.

Charges were laid against several suspects, including one who police allege handed a loaded gun to a youth to hide for him.

Just one incident has been linked to those warring Surrey-Delta crime groups since mid-June, Hackett said, after more than 30 public shooting incidents in the spring.

NDP public safety critic Mike Farnworth questioned why an enforced standard from the province is necessary to get police agencies to fully cooperate.

“Most people would reasonably expect it would already be taking place,” he said.

Anton denied there is any lack of cooperation between police forces that has prompted the mandatory standard, insisting B.C. forces have better coordination than any other jurisdiction.

She said police so far have tended to use community-specific approaches that can vary.

“What we are doing now is taking the lessons learned from best practices developed with our provincial anti-gang unit, and sharing that learning and those standards with police around B.C. so that everyone has access to the same effective approaches.”

All police forces in B.C. are to adopt the new standards, as are other agencies such as sheriffs, corrections officers and the Canada Border Service Agency.