It’s just a very small number of guys and their families that are causing all the problems in Abbotsford
JASKARN Lally’s murder in Abbotsford last week on Friday was a crime waiting to happen in view of his intense involvement in a criminal lifestyle (read the main story “Jaskarn Lally shot dead in Chase Street home in Abbotsford”).
Abbotsford Police Constable Ian MacDonald told me this week as we once again the gang situation in his city: “Every time there is an incident, it dramatically increases the possibility of another one because of that nature what – the retaliation … retribution. So you can go through a period of relative calm and then as soon as there is the first major incident or an attempt to assault or worse, it seems to create a period of escalating tension. The other side is waiting to retaliate and the side that launched the first attack is now contemplating an attack.”
I asked Ian: “So basically you are just expecting another retaliation?’
He replied: “We always have to be prepared. As soon as there is a flare-up and I don’t want to minimize it … flare-up can be damage to property, it can be an attempt at injury or worse – it can be anything along that spectrum – but once you have that and it includes obviously homicide – anytime you have it, you are at a heightened state of awareness of the fact that there is going to be a retaliation or there could be a second offensive that’s launched by the same group. This could be one of two or three different targets and attempts that are going to take place. You can go through a period of relative calm and then, as soon as you get that first someone doing something or some group doing something, now you know you’ve got to be on high alert.”
I told Ian that I was sure the Abbotsford Police had reached out to both sides of the Townline Hill conflict involving two groups of South Asians and warned them of the consequences and I added: “But that doesn’t seem to be getting them anywhere, right?”
Ian replied: “This is what is always challenging. We end up getting lots of people engaged on the top. There’s not a person that could convince me that the citizens of Abbotsford do not care about this issue. They’ve identified this as their top issue, right? The problem is that you only need a small number of people and to a certain extent family who aren’t going to be part of the solution to be part of the problem.
“In a city of 140,000 it doesn’t take more than a handful of people who are not receptive to the message to cause and create damage. So the problem with suggesting that things aren’t working is we are forgetting the 139,900 people who are doing what they are supposed to be doing and are actually on board with public safety and order, etc.
“All you need is a few dozen who don’t and in some cases, families who don’t seem to be doing much about intervening, and you can see the results.”
When I noted that I could hear someone who was in all probability a member of the victim’s family wailing on TV during the coverage of the Lally homicide, Ian said: “I can understand the loss of life the loss of a loved one is a tragedy. I understand the emotion that comes along with it, but you can`t honestly say you are surprised. You can say you are upset, but I don`t think in good faith – if your kid is a gangster and has been arrested time and time again – I don`t think you can say you are surprised.”
Ian said: “It doesn’t matter what segment of society you are looking at, it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are looking at, the vast majority of all people are making good choices. It’s just a small group that aren’t willing to make any changes in their behaviour and sometimes the families are just making excuses for their behaviour.
“But it’s such a small number, it doesn’t end up being a huge consolation because if a young person is killed, it is a tragedy for the family, it’s a tragedy for the community. What can you do? Like you’ve got 90-plus per cent of the population who is getting the message loud and clear; so they are the same people that show up at all of our public meetings, they are the same people that engage and want to volunteer or helping out in the schools, doing all those things. How do you get to all those other [ones]?”
IAN also pointed out: “I don’t think we are dealing with an Abbotsford problem; I think we are dealing with a real Lower Mainland issue. Like if you are looking at the conflicts taking place in the Lower Mainland, I think there are connections between what’s happening sort of in that wider territory and what’s happening in Abbotsford. So I don’t think we can look at this as an Abbotsford problem or a Surrey problem or a Vancouver problem – this is Lower Mainland.”
I asked Ian: “Is there anything extra you are planning to do about this situation or is this the maximum you can do?”
He replied: “I think we really are… always looking at new and innovative ways to do things but it really comes down to at the end of the day to three things. One is prevention, the other one is enforcement, and the third and maybe the most important – we’ve been doing for a long time – is partnering with the community. I don’t know there’s another tool you can bring out but if anybody is aware of it we are willing to try it.
Asked about bigger gangs moving in at some stage, Ian pointed out: “It started out with young people making stupid choices. Those young people get co-opted quite quickly into making more consequential, stupid choices in a more organized fashion and become recruits for gangs quite quickly. So you end up with essentially dumb kids who are prepared to do dumb things. And then if you are gang-involved, those are exactly the people you are looking for. You are not looking for smart kids who aren’t prepared to make dumb choices, but you want people who are going to do the dumb things that you are going to ask them to do.