A recent drop in gang violence now has B.C.'s anti-gang police unit looking to the courts for closure on several major outstanding cases.
Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit chief officer Kevin Hackett said 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.
His comments were published Monday in the unit's 2014 annual community report. It can be found online at bc-anti-gang.com.
The number of gang-related killings in B.C. fell to 13 last year from 18 in 2012 and has been cut by almost two-thirds from the 36 gang murders committed in 2009.
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.
The report's release came after the province announced policing cuts that will pare the CFSEU budget by $2.8 million.
- Read the CFSEU 2014 Community Report
Much public attention has focused on the Surrey Six murder trial, which concluded in early July. A decision is expected to be handed down Oct. 2 in the case against two of the men accused of killing two innocents along with four other targeted victims.
But a separate murder conspiracy trial for Red Scorpions gang member Jamie Bacon is slated to begin next May for his alleged role in the Surrey Six slayings.
And there could be two other major gang murder trials in 2015 as well.
A trial is expected to begin next year in Kelowna, where Jonathan Bacon was gunned down three years ago. Jujhar Khun-Khun, Michael Kerry Hunter Jones and Jason Thomas McBride face first-degree murder charges as well as four counts each of attempted murder.
CFSEU officials say next year could also see the start of a trial against Cory Vallee, accused in two murders – the 2009 shooting in Langley of Red Scorpion Kevin LeClair and the 2008 shooting in Burnaby of Jonathan Barber, who was mistakenly targeted because he was installing a stereo in a car owned by a Bacon brother.
Vallee, who was arrested in August in Mexico and quickly returned to B.C., also faces conspiracy charges in relation to a UN Gang plot to kill the Bacon brothers.
Hackett said a joint CFSEU-IHIT investigation also led to murder conspiracy guilty pleas last year against six UN Gang members and associates.
He said the gangsters had been "ruthlessly hunting" members of the Bacon crime group in 2008-09, a period during which police efforts also prevented at least two more murders.
"They displayed blatant disregard for public safety in what Crown counsel referred to as 'human safaris' while they targeted their rivals."
The six received sentences of seven to 14 years each and although UN Gang leader Barzan Tilli-Choli could be out late in 2018 due to time served, he is expected to then be deported to Iraq.
Hackett 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.
The annual report includes statistics on the ethnicity of gang murder victims, where the bodies are typically found (31 per cent inside a car, 20 per cent inside a residence), as well as seasonal patterns in gang violence.
Jonathan Bacon was killed outside a Kelowna hotel three years ago.The murder trial of his three accused killers is slated to begin next year.