BY RATTAN MALL
THE Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – BC has moved away from looking at the number of gangs there are in British Columbia and are now focused on the fact that there are between 1,200 and 1,400 identified individuals associated to gangs and organized crime in this province, CFSEU-BC Sgt. Brenda Winpenny told The VOICE this week.
These individuals have been identified through the Provincial Tactical Enforcement Priority (PTEP) program that the CFSEU-BC houses and leads. This program has been in operation since 2012.
Winpenny, who is the Media Relations Officer of the CFSEU-BC, said that the PTEP analysts acquire information from all policing agencies within the province to identify the individuals involved in this lifestyle and are considered the biggest threat to public safety due to their involvement in gang violence and criminal activity.
She pointed out that the number of these individuals fluctuates on a constant basis due to the fact that they are not bound by jurisdictions and are transient.
“They go to jail, they are shot and killed, they move out of province, etc., and we see on a regular basis that alliances and allegiances change,” she added.
Winpenny noted: “The gang violence experienced in this province is expressed through the lowest street-level drug trade murders due to the conflict created by rival individuals vying for territory.
“It is also represented at the highest levels as indicated by the trials ongoing in relation to the Jonathan Bacon and Kevin LeClair murders. If you follow these trials you gain an understanding of the inner workings of these individuals and groups and the lengths they will go to in order to eliminate rivals.”
JONATHAN Bacon, a Red Scorpion leader and one of three Bacon brothers, was killed on August 14, 2011, in Kelowna in a brazen attack in broad daylight by three masked gunmen in front of the Delta Grand Hotel. Also with Bacon were Larry Amero, a full-patch Hells Angels member from White Rock, James Riach of the Independent Soldiers, and two women, Leah Hadden-Watts and Lyndsey Black. Hadden-Watts was rendered a quadriplegic. Amero and Black sustained gunshot wounds. Riach escaped without injury.
Jujhar Khun-Khun of Surrey, Michael Jones of Gibsons, and Jason McBride of North Vancouver, who were arrested on February 22, 2013, are charged with first-degree murder of Bacon and are currently on trial. Manjinder “Manny” Hairan, 29, who was shot dead on January 15, 2013, in Surrey, was also involved in the Kelowna shooting.
Former associates of the three gangsters on trial have been testifying against them at the trial at the B.C. Supreme Court in Kelowna.
At the time, the Lower Mainland gang war that was raging involved the Dhak-Duhre group and United Nations gang, on one side, and the ‘Wolf Pack’ of some Hells Angels with Independent Soldiers and Red Scorpions, on the other side. Gurmit Dhak, described as a charismatic gang leader by police, was shot dead in 2010 and that started a whole chain of violent events that are still reverberating.
In January 2012, Sandip Duhre was shot dead in a blatant assassination in a downtown Vancouver hotel bar and later a ruling by a B.C. Supreme Court judge revealed that Riach was one of the gang members seen at the scene.
Gurmit’s brother, Sukh, who was himself shot dead in 2012, blamed Amero and Riach for his brother’s death and wanted revenge
As I wrote in an article last June: “You can be sure that some gang members are very keenly interested in what’s going on at the Red Scorpion gang leader Jonathan Bacon’s murder trial in Kelowna because they are nervous if their name or some information concerning them may crop up – and of course, the consequences that may follow!” This is what gang expert Staff-Sgt. Lindsey Houghton of the CFSEU-BC had pointed out to me.
Houghton also noted: “As we remind people, your choices may come back to haunt you 10, 15, 20 years down the road and so when we eventually catch the people who we allege are behind these acts of violence – and people should make no mistake that we will catch them eventually – all of the things that happened … will all come back (to haunt you) … People need to understand that.”
Cory Vallee is charged with first-degree murder of Red Scorpion member Kevin LeClair, 27, who was gunned down in broad daylight at the Thunderbird Shopping Center as he left a restaurant and lounge located in that plaza on February 6, 2009. Vallee, who is currently on trial, was arrested in Guadalajara, Mexico, on August 13, 2014, after four years of evading police.
He is also charged with conspiracy to kill the Bacon brothers and other Red Scorpions.
LeClair had been a UN gang member before he switched over to the Red Scorpions and became a target for the other UN gang members.
Now former members of the UN gang have become Crown witnesses.
ALLIANCES & ALLEGIANCES KEEP CHANGING
WINPENNY told The VOICE: “The situation really hasn’t changed since 2008-2009. The analogy I like to use is that the gang landscape is similar to a pot of boiling water. You turn down the heat and it simmers down, you turn up the heat and the water boils and keeps boiling until it boils over.”
She added: “As of late, we have experienced that the heat has been turned up in relation to the conflicts. The players involved in the conflicts will determine at what point the water will boil over or the heat will be turned down.”
Winpenny also pointed out that while the gangs such as United Nations and Red Scorpions still exist, there are several sub-groups within that go by specific names of individuals associated to that group.
She noted: “We are now seeing that alliances can change and at times are not specific allegiances to one group.”
When I asked Winpenny how powerful the Hells Angels are in BC now, she replied: “I would hesitate to use the word “powerful” when releasing a story to the public concerning any gang including the Hells Angels. If we do that we are giving them the “power” they think or want to have and we legitimize them. They are criminals plain and simple!”
She added: “The Hells Angels are one of the longest standing gangs in British Columbia, hovering around 100 members. They may appear “stable” on the outside but they are not immune to the culture as other gangs have exhibited of infighting and breaking away as we have seen with the formation of the new Hardside chapter.”
CFSEU-BC say they continue to work collaboratively with their partner policing agencies in their enforcement, disruption and education efforts. This is not an issue of one single community or ethnicity; it is a larger Lower Mainland issue that requires a coordinated response with the communities’ help, they point out.
CFSEU-BC encourages anyone with knowledge or ties to gangs to contact their Gang Exiting and Outreach team at 778-918-2287 or [email protected].