The latest round of gang revenge shootings in Metro Vancouver has resulted in arrests in Surrey and Burnaby, and police need information on the participants to make more progress, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says.
Recent brazen shootings in Surrey, Burnaby and at Vancouver International Airport are only part of gang-related violence that has seen 11 shooting incidents in Surrey alone so far in 2021. Six of those were homicides, in the latest gang crimes around the province that typically involve drug trafficking and “a series of turf wars,” Farnworth told reporters Friday.
He said there are legal limits on the ability of police and the province to “name and shame” individuals, but that would be an effective way of deterring people who have become involved in gangs.
After meeting with B.C. police chiefs this week, Farnworth reiterated that resources are not an issue, and the budget for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has increased 15 per cent in recent years. He has repeatedly clarified that traffic stops to enforce B.C.’s COVID-19 essential travel order have not affected gang investigations.
Tips on the next target, from associates and family members of gang members, are what’s needed, he said.
“These gangsters either end up jail or they end up dead,” Farnworth said. “They need to realize they are not safe anywhere.”
Teenagers have been targets or participants in recent shootings, an issue that led to creation of the long-standing police liaison program in high schools. Former gang members participate to give students an inside look at criminal organizations. Vancouver and New Westminister school boards have recently voted to get rid of the program, apparently part of a wave of anti-police sentiment that has spread from the United States.
Farnworth said B.C. has made progress, establishing its own forensic firearms lab and a witness protection program that has led to 42 convictions. Guns, the borders they cross and the drugs they protect are matters of federal law, and B.C.’s latest move this spring includes a ban on selling “low-velocity” pellet or BB guns to young people.
The Firearm Violence Prevention Act also allows B.C. police to impound vehicles used to transport firearms or flee from police, and collection of fingerprints from those applying for armoured vehicle and body armour permits.