Fuelled by greed and money, the tentacles of gangs and organized crime is everywhere in the province, including the Comox Valley, says Sgt. Lindsey Houghton.
Although it may not be a highly visible problem in some communities, Houghton said no community in B.C. is immune.
“Violence precipitates down … where money can be made from drugs, where that can be done, it will be done,” he added.
Houghton is a spokesperson for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) – B.C. — the province’s anti-gang agency — an integrated joint forces operation to target, investigate, prosecute, disrupt and dismantle the organized crime groups and individuals that pose the highest risk to public safety due to gang violence.
The approach enhances information sharing, co-ordination and deployment against threats of violence posed by organized crime groups and gangs in the province.
Houghton spent the weekend in the Comox Valley talking to kids attending the RCMP Youth Camp about gangs and the general gang environment, and to dispel any myths about the issue.
“It’s important to demystify (the issue) and get down to the facts,” he noted. “It sounds clichéd, but (the kids) are our future police officers, educators, journalists and businesspeople.”
CFSEU works with various police and RCMP detachments, and Houghton explained the unit worked closely with the Comox Valley RCMP in the fall of 2011 for the joint project E-Pigmentation.
“A couple of people were arrested on drug and weapon-related offences. At the time, it was a large bust of heroin and cocaine in the Comox Valley,” he said, and added drugs and its relation to organized crime is not just a big-city problem.
In June 2010, officers executed three search warrants, two in the Comox Valley and one in Nanaimo. Seizures included a large amount of drugs, cash and 30 firearms.
“The Comox Valley is an idyllic place; people come here for recreation and for the gateway to Mount Washington. A lot of people don’t realize there still a presence of organized crime and drugs,” noted Houghton.
He said the sharing of information and intelligence between various law enforcements in the province, including the Canada Border Services Agency, has never been greater.
“There’s monumental changes in the mindset and willingness to share information in real time. It really helps with various police agencies, even across Canada.”
Houghton said gangs and their members are travelling, not bound by municipal or provincial boundaries, always in pursuit of money.
“It’s the driving factor.”
Looking at the statistics, Houghton explained that generally the number of gang-motivated homicides has fallen since its peak in 2006, and there are an estimated 188 gangs and organized crime units in B.C.
“It has stayed pretty steady in the last five to 10 years. It is significant who has been arrested,” he noted. “We have taken high-profile and extremely violent offenders off the streets.”