BY RATTAN MALL
IT’S been so quiet for the last couple of months on the gang front in B.C.
So I asked gang expert Staff-Sgt. Lindsey Houghton of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. whether this could be because of the shocking violence in October when Hells Angel Robert (Bob) Keith Green of Burnaby was murdered in Langley and then 10 days later, dismembered parts of the body of Shaun Alan Clary, who reportedly had gang associations, were found scattered in Langley.
Houghton replied: “There is no doubt that murders and certain violent events can and often do have a chilling effect on that group and the people who are involved in it.”
That is because whether they are directly associated or indirectly associated to people who are involved in those violent events, word gets around pretty quickly not just through the media, but also through their own network.
Houghton added: “And they all scurry into their dark, little corners and caves and shadows because they don’t want to be next, even though there may not be a threat against them – they don’t know that!
“That really speaks to this life of chaos and paranoia and complete uncertainty that these people live 24/7 365 days a year.”
Houghton also pointed out: “We’ve typically seen in past years a bit of a downturn, if you will, around the holiday season but then we’ve also seen an uptick in January, February and March. So we are hoping that these people involved in this type of activity choose not to follow some of the past trends and, of course, we are doing everything we can on our end to ensure that doesn’t happen.”
He also noted: “Whether it’s January 1 or December 31, from our perspective nothing really changes. Our foot at our unit is on the gas and we are continuing to move forward whether it is supporting our partner agencies – whether that’s police or others around the province – in their targeting and prevention and other efforts against gang activity, organized crime at every level.”
He added that this was especially now with intense focus on fentanyl and the opioid crisis.
(I will come back to the fentanyl crisis later).
SO have there been any major changes in gang alignments?
Houghton said the alignments are still the same, adding: “We’ve still got these two somewhat distinct and separate sides. Every once in a while there are some shifting allegiances on minor scales – individuals or small cells or groups. But there is nothing major that’s going on. It’s been fairly consistent, at least over the last year.”
The only change seems to be the diminishing influence of the Dhaks and Sandip Duhre associates.
Houghton explained: “As we get another year removed from the Dhaks and Sandip Duhre, we always get questioned about why we are still using their names. I think it’s fair to say – and how I qualify it is it’s the legacy of those groups – but I think if we want to start to remove ourselves from using their names, it’s more the United Nations … The Dhak associates and the Duhres associates are still scattered around, but the dominant side of that is now the United Nations and the United Nations-aligned people. They still exist. They are still around.”
The other side is the Wolf Pack that consists of 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: “We’ve seen and heard the name Wolf Pack over the last year. We’ve heard their name come up in places like Kamloops and Surrey. So they are still very active and groups like the Red Scorpions and Independent Soldiers – these groups are still active and prominent in that world.”
MEANWHILE, the fentaynl crisis in B.C. is the intense focus of the police forces.
Houghton said the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. is supporting all its partner agencies as they look to target the street-level drug dealing, which some people have classified as gang activity, others as low-level gang activity and still others have hesitated to connect it to gangs.
But he thinks that we are at a point now where we need to get past what labels may or may not apply and recognize that there is a continuum of connection.
Houghton said: “We’ve seen the number of deaths and tragedies related to fentaynl in particular reach an epidemic level.” So the CFSEU-BC, like all its policing partners, is determined to do everything that it can to get these very dangerous drugs off the streets and hold the drug dealers accountable.
When I pointed out to Houghton that many wonder if the drug dealers would like to see their clients die like this because they are making money off them, he responded: “They don’t care … because they know there are other customers. … They have no consideration or regard for human life because they don’t see that as affecting them. They see the people that they are preying on as replaceable commodities … and there is little to no humanity associated to this on their part.”
He added: “And it’s really sad because we hear the stories it seems every day now of young people who have died and we are hearing from their parents or husbands or wives or siblings or … whoever it is. This isn’t an epidemic that is only affecting hardcore street level drug users. This is affecting everyone in every community of every socio-economic status. There are no boundaries.”
Houghton said that recently he had been reflecting on this and thinking about what we could do better and he compared it to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and how at first it seemed like it was a crisis affecting only a certain community.
He added: “And then it grew and grew and grew and the community mobilized and look where we are today in our fight against AIDS and HIV! We are so far ahead and I think and I like to hope that that is also possible if we were all to come together [to deal with the fentanyl crisis].”