Province to create intelligence-led illegal firearms trafficking team 

Mike Farnworth

THE Illegal Firearms Task Force (IFTF) has provided a report that will help government respond to public threats posed by the use of illegal firearms in B.C., the Province announced on Monday.

The IFTF convened last fall to examine current legislation and enforcement policies, and has now provided the Province with 37 recommendations to deal with issues relating to policing, legislative and policy changes, education and prevention.

“Ongoing threats to public safety in British Columbia caused by the use of illegal firearms, from targeted gang shootings in public places to people using vehicles for shootouts on our city streets, have made citizens in our communities feel unsafe,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “This report zeroes in on some useful strategies to help us combat these crimes and make B.C. communities safer.”

The focus of the work by experts on the IFTF was to understand how illegal firearms are acquired and used by gang members and criminals in British Columbia. It is important in order to prevent and disrupt those who use illegal firearms in criminal activities and violence. This understanding informed the task force as it developed recommendations — four of which government will immediately begin work on:

  • Creation of an intelligence-led illegal firearms trafficking team — Expanding its mandate as the province’s gang unit, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC) will establish and lead a provincial illegal-firearms-focused strategy that includes cross-border investigations into domestic and international firearms traffickers in partnership with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and other law enforcement.
  • Establishing a centralized firearms intelligence hub — In conjunction with the Firearms Trafficking Team, CFSEU-BC will establish a centralized firearms intelligence hub to compile and analyse data that builds a comprehensive intelligence picture related to illegal firearms, aligned with our federal partners at the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST) and the CBSA.
  • Law enforcement prioritization — Using the targeted process known as PTEP (Provincial Tactical Enforcement Priority), CFSEU-BC will work to co-ordinate and leverage all law enforcement to prioritize efforts against the use and trafficking of illegal firearms.
  • Federal engagement — The Province will actively press the federal government to provide B.C.’s share of the recently announced additional funding of $326.7 million over five years for help with the fight against guns and gangs. B.C. will also immediately request details from the federal government about disbursement of this funding, so further action can be taken to help make our communities safer through enforcement, prevention and collaboration.

Other IFTF recommendations being examined include: modification of firearms and use of imitation firearms; vehicle use in gun violence; expansion of Bar Watch or similar programs; looking at enhancing safe schools programs; and working with the federal government on things like examining better ways to trace the history and movement of firearms.

“The task force members met with key stakeholders and subject-matter experts, held community roundtables, and examined provincial and federal firearms legislation and current prevention and enforcement strategies,” said Wayne Rideout, task-force lead and recently retired RCMP assistant commissioner. “Our recommendations focus on the co-ordination of multiple strategies designed to complement each other, leverage existing programs and focus the efforts of numerous stakeholders.”

“The removal of crime guns from our streets is a priority for the CFSEU-BC,” said Kevin Hackett, assistant commissioner and the chief officer of CFSEU-BC’s integrated anti-gang police agency. “Not only do these weapons, in the hands of gang members and organized crime groups, put the public and our communities at risk, but they are used to further support the criminal activity that these individuals are involved in on a daily basis.”

The report will also help to inform further plans to deal with gangs and organized crime in the coming months. The IFTF report, along with its 37 recommendations, can be accessed at:  https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/criminal-justice/policing-in-bc/publications-statistics-legislation/publications/gov-reports

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