Gangs have moved operations to the North because of police pressure in Lower Mainland
BY RATTAN MALL
IT’S true that we don’t see as many gang members dying today as we did many years ago, but they are still being killed because of who they are associated with.
Since the August 2011 murder of Red Scorpions’ leader Jonathan Bacon in Kelowna (Hells Angels’ Larry Amero and Independent Soldiers’ James Raich were injured in the same shooting incident), “the fragmentation of the gang landscape has gotten even more dramatic and people we found especially at the lower to mid level scramble to associate with who they think is going to help them or protect them the most,” Sgt. Lindsey Houghton of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – BC (CFSEU-BC) told The VOICE on Thursday.
“Of course, we all know the protection or the sense of protection is a mirage, a complete fallacy because everyone is out for themselves,” added Houghton.
Roughly, there’s two sides to the equation: on one side, you have the United Nations gang and all the remnants and allies of the Dhak-Duhre side of things – and then on the other side, you have what we would call the Wolf Pack: certain Hells Angels like Larry Amero and their allies and associates, the Independent Soldiers and the people that they brought to the equation and the Red Scorpions.
Houghton noted that there were two watershed moments in this larger conflict. One was the murder of Gurmit Dhak, who was shot dead in execution style in an SUV in October 2010 at a parking lot of the Metrotown Shopping Centre. “That caused a lot of tit-for-tat violence and there were a lot of very public incidents that happened as a result of that,” said Houghton.
Then in August 2011, on the other side of the equation, Jonathan Bacon was murdered, allegedly by the Dhak-Duhre and UN group. “Since then, it would be fair to say in retribution for that, a lot of people on the Dhak-Duhre-UN side of things have been targeted,” said Houghton.
(The trial of Jujhar Khun-Khun of Surrey, Michael Kerry Hunter Jones of Gibsons, and Jason Thomas McBride of North Vancouver in the slaying of Jonathan Bacon will start April 4, 2016., in Kelowna.)
OF course, we still see pockets of gang violence flaring up from time to time in different communities in the Lower Mainland, but right now, B.C.’s north continues to be a bit of a hot spot with respect to gangs and gang violence.
“A lot of that has to do with the successes that we’ve had here in the Lower Mainland / Metro Vancouver around suppressing and disrupting [gangs], and conducting enforcement,” said Houghton.
He added that gangs tend to move to places where it would be easier to operate, where they think that they can get away with it, but where they also know that they will have a market for their product.
“Despite the downturn in prices of oil and gas, there is still a lot of money up north – Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Prince George – these places, and we have gang members who live down here and operate their businesses in those communities. We know that some of the people who were involved in what was happening in Surrey and Delta have gone up there because of the pressure that we collectively have put on them,” added Houghton.
NATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS
I asked Houghton about the status of the gangs at this point in time.
“These gangs, especially the more high profile ones like the UN and the Red Scorpions and the Independent Soldiers, their power and ability to influence and all of that ebbs and flows on a regular basis in our communities around the province and their reach goes even beyond British Columbia. We know the Red Scorpions, the Independent Soldiers and the United Nations are not only here in B.C., but across Canada and even have ties internationally – Mexico and [East] Asia and Southeast Asia,” said Houghton.
He added: “The United Nations gang is a great example of that and they have long had ties and influence around the world; and so have groups like the Independent Soldiers.”
Houghton pointed out the example of James Riach, a very high profile Independent Soldiers member who was one of the people in the vehicle when Jonathan Bacon was murdered in Kelowna. After that incident, he fled back east to the Ottawa-Montreal area, then went to Europe and the Middle East before making his way to the Philippines. Last year in January he was arrested there for allegedly trafficking drugs from Mexico and he’s been in jail ever since. “That’s a B.C. gangster who’s doing that,” noted Houghton.
(Incidentally, in February a ruling by a B.C. Supreme Court judge revealed that Riach was one of the gang members seen in a downtown Vancouver hotel bar when Sandip Duhre was killed there in January 2012.)
Houghton said: “So when people say ‘oh B.C. gang members, they are just B.C. gang members, they live and operate in Surrey or …,’ that’s not the case, especially at the mid to higher level. Our gang members are extremely mobile. They are very technologically savvy and they are able to leverage the strength of their associates and their colleagues to help this larger business network.”
He also noted: “We know that groups like the Red Scorpions are still around and, in some communities, are still flourishing, communities like Mission and out in the Fraser Valley where the Bacon side of the Red Scorpions grew very strong. The Independent soldiers are still recruiting and it was only a few months ago we made a couple of arrests and seizure in the Okanagan and we seized a box of Independent Soldiers clothing. The United Nations people are still in our community, still looking to recruit – this is a constant, ongoing thing. The Independent Soldiers, while their name and their brand may not be as prominent out here or on Vancouver Island, up in the Okanagan they still exist and into Alberta they still exist.”