FIRST the good news.
There’s been a significant decline in gang violence in B.C.
Now the bad news.
With an estimated 130 to 180 gangs or criminal groups in B.C. you would be fooling yourself if you think there’s going to be peace.
But, as gang expert Sgt. Lindsey Houghton of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – BC, points out: “If we don’t continue this work and if the communities don’t continue to work with the police or don’t continue their advocacy against gangs and gang violence, then it’s going to come back. The numbers are going to rise again.”
In other words, there is no room for complacency.
Just looking at South Asian gang victims, the community had already paid a huge price since the murders of brothers Jim and Ron Dosanjh in 1994. Yet looking at what’s going on once again in the South Slope of Vancouver where two rival South Asian gangs of young men are once again going at one another with shootings and arsons, it seems that we just might be sitting on a time bomb once again.
The bad news?
“What we see is still the continuing trend of a handful of predominantly young South Asian men who are for whatever reason are attracted to this lifestyle despite having every opportunity afforded to them because they come from middle class / upper middle class families. They have opportunity for schooling. They have opportunity for good careers. They continue to be lured in and they believe all of the myths and lies that are fed to them about gangs and the gang lifestyle,” notes Houghton.
The good news?
“We’ve seen the South Asian community more than any other ethnic group mobilize against this,” says Houghton.
So there is no room for complacency either for the community or for the anti-gang task force, the CFSEU-BC.
Houghton puts it bluntly: “People always ask me ‘well, are we still in a gang war?’ Well, of course, we are! We always have been and we can’t take our eye off the ball or our foot off the gas just because the stats are low.”
He adds: “If we don’t continue this work and if the communities don’t continue to work with the police or don’t continue their advocacy against gangs and gang violence, then it’s going to come back. The numbers are going to rise again.”
Because “there are gang members out on our streets every single day who look to commit violence or look to commit crimes whether it’s selling drugs or shooting somebody. That’s always a potential in every single community in British Columbia and across Canada.”
ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY to 180 gangs / criminal groups might sound staggering.
However, those groups could be comprised of as few as less than 10 members or they could be like the Hells Angels who have more than 100 members.
That all makes the gang scene very fluid and hence, very unpredictable with rank opportunism the order of the day.
As Houghton puts it: “Alignments are always changing. It’s an extremely fluid and dynamic environment that these people find themselves in. As police, we are constantly targeting them and monitoring and disrupting their activities and conducting enforcement both locally and as they travel around, whether it is within British Columbia or across Canada.”
There are still remnants of the United Nations and Independent Soldiers and other gangs. But gang members aren’t necessarily calling themselves by a specific name. They sometimes function in very tight-knit groups and go by the names of who their identified leader is or some other name that they seem to choose and that name may change two or three times year, Houghton notes.
And the Red Scorpions still exist. Houghton says that police still considers the two surviving Bacon brothers, who are behind bars, to be leaders of the Red Scorpions, although police believe that some people are sort of controlling things on the outside.
And recently, we learned that yet another gang wields quite a bit of influence in small communities around B.C. and even as far away as Yellowknife and Alberta and Ontario: the so-called “856” (the phone prefix in the Aldergrove area) gang.
Just recently the CFSEU-BC displayed almost $400,000 worth of drugs that were reportedly seized from the gang. Police say it’s a violent criminal group that have been in existence for close to a decade and have been featured in local and other media for their involvement in assaults, drugs, weapon-related, property-related, and other types of crimes.
BUT you may be surprised to know that the most powerful gang in B.C. is NOT the most dangerous.
The most powerful gang is none other than the Hells Angels.
As Houghton explains: “You look at a group like the Hells Angels – by just sheer numbers they have over a hundred full patch members of the Hells Angels and then they have dozens and dozens of close associates and they’re disbursed throughout the province.
“Not only that, but they’re an international organized crime group. They have chapters and clubhouses and members all around the world. So they’re not only internationally connected but they’re in existence throughout every single province in this country and they have been so for decades and so they are unique in that respect and they’re one of the first gangs, if you want to call them that, in Canada.”
Houghton also notes: “Many of them have been arrested and convicted and the last I heard it was about 18 per cent of British Columbia full-patch members are either in jail, have been convicted or recently convicted of criminal offences – so almost one out of every five of them.
“They’re heavily involved in criminal activity and have been for many, many years and everybody knows that – and in the gang world – perhaps less so than it used to be – but in the gang world, they were somewhat revered and feared. The name Hells Angels is very well known – it’s a ubiquitous name in our society.”
They are also the richest gang. Houghton points out: “They have been in existence for decades and they’ve been operating for decades and they’ve amassed a huge fortune – millions and millions of dollars.”
HOWEVER, the Hells Angels don’t operate the same way as United Nations gang founder Clay Roueche and his gang or the Red Scorpions did.
Houghton notes that members and associates of crime groups like the Red Scorpions, the Independent Soldiers, the United Nations and the Dhak-Duhre, whose power has waned a bit, are the ones that “have been committing the most violence in our communities and those are the ones who concern us greatly because they don’t care for the most part about public safety.”
Many of them are not calling themselves by those gang names, but the fact is that they are former members of those gangs.
Houghton says: “They’re the ones who are fighting over drug lines. You look at the Surrey Six trial and the murder of those six people was over drug lines and the most violent thing that could happen in our community is fighting over turf and that’s what these people do.”
Innocent victims Chris Mohan, 22, and Edward J. Schellenberg, 55, of Abbotsford and four other victims who police say led criminal lifestyles – brothers Corey Jason Michael Lal, 21, and Michael Justin Lal, 26, and Edward (Eddie) Sousakhone Narong, 22, and Ryan Bartolomeo, 19 – were executed in typical gang-style fashion at the Balmoral Towers in Surrey on October 19, 2007.
On October 2, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge found two Red Scorpion gangsters Cody Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston each guilty of six counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the 2007 Surrey Six murders.
Surrey Six co-accused, Jamie Bacon, is being tried separately. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Corey Lal and, along with Haevischer and Johnston, conspiracy to commit murder in Lal’s death.
Houghton points out: “They don’t care about the 99.9 per cent of society – the rest of us, if you will – they want to fight over the small piece of pie that is the drug market and they’re willing to put everybody at risk including themselves to fight over that.”
Don’t forget that we are talking access to millions and millions of dollars worth of drugs and profits from drugs.
But let’s also note:
“What do those people have to show for it? They are either all dead or all in jail.”
– Desi Today Bureau