Informal groups make up Peninsula’s ‘gang’ problem

Local RCMP help other jurisdictions tackle organized crime-related cases on the Saanich Peninsula.

On the Saanich Peninsula

Members of organized crime groups do pass through the Saanich Peninsula, yet this area has little in the way of actual gang problems.

Earlier this year, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) based in the lower mainland, published its 2014 annual community report. It reported a recent drop in gang violence.

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.

The report can be found online at bc-anti-gang.com.

On the Peninsula, Sidney North Saanich RCMP Constable Erin Fraser said the closest we have to similar activity comes from informal groups of youth or young adults that seem to be trying to form alliances in various local communities.

“We are aware of these small groups,” Fraser said, “and we focus on education.”

Their activity is confined mostly to acts of vandalism, mischief, intimidation and even theft. Fraser said police do what they can to discourage these groups’ growth and criminal activities.

They are, however, a far cry from organized crime activities that one normally associates with gangs.

Fraser said the RCMP has dedicated officers in the community, as well as two who serve area First Nations communities, who identify people who are getting into trouble. If they do run afoul of the law, she said police monitor them and ensure they comply with conditions of their release.

To prevent gang-related activity, Fraser said those officers try to identify where there are gaps for people to fall through. Then, they deal directly with those who continue to break the law.

When bigger cases of gang-related or organized crime activity reach the Peninsula, Fraser said they work with other police forces and the CFSEU, when necessary and when asked to help. While she said there are no actual gang members living on the Peninsula, their operations can be seen when it comes to the drug trade and other illegal activity.

Often, as the local agency, the RCMP is called in to assist when there’s an arrest to be made. That can involve a variety of agencies working together to catch criminals who use the ferry or airport as a means of transportation. It’s part of the sharing of information and communication to curb gang activity throughout the province, Fraser added.

Sometimes, local police get lucky. Fraser said an officer back in April 2014 stopped a driver at the ferry terminal. After smelling pot, the officer discovered marijuana and pot cigarettes and $27,000 in cash. While not related to a gang-related case at the time, Fraser said that incident was in all likelihood linked to organized crime.

According to the CFSEU report, 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.

The report’s release came after the province announced policing cuts that will pare the CFSEU budget by $2.8 million.

— with files from Jeff Nagel/Black Press