Gang violence has shot up this year in B.C. after a two-year lull.
There have been 30 gang-linked murders and attempted murders as of June 30, nearly twice as many as the 18 in all of 2014 and up from 24 in 2013.
Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit Chief Supt. Kevin Hackett said many of the incidents were in Surrey or Delta, where B.C.’s anti-gang police unit worked closely with local officers to suppress conflict between rival groups, with success later in the year.
“Street level drug traffickers brazenly shot at each other from moving vehicles and engaged in gun battles on our roads putting the community at risk,” Hackett said.
His comments were published this week in the CFSEU’s 2015 community report. It can be found at bc-anti-gang.com.
According to statistics released in the report, the average age of a gang violence victim is 25 years old, which is younger than in previous years. The youngest victim this year was 15, while the oldest was 66.
Over the past 10 years, there have been 15 female victims of gang violence and there have been 35 mass gang shootings (involving multiple victims of gun violence at one location) claiming 85 victims.
Significant arrests have been made this year.
Two men face charges in connection with a series of arsons and shootings in previous years targeting staff of the Justice Institute of B.C.
Hackett also cited the arrests of two extremely violent and prolific dangerous offenders from Edmonton in the Lower Mainland who were tied to crimes in B.C. and Alberta, including murders, attempted murders and violent home invasions involving the torture and mutilation of victims.
Hackett said a joint forces operation led by the CFSEU was needed because the “brazen and transient” crime group posed a higher risk to public safety.
In the courts, the trial of three men for the 2011 murder of gangster Jonathan Bacon in Kelowna is expected to get underway next spring.
The community report features one young woman’s insider story of life within a gang – packaging cocaine for sale, acting as a cross-country drug mule and growing increasingly terrified as risks escalate and drug deals go wrong.
Early on she had been seduced by the lifestyle, befriending gang members, including two young men who would later end up dead off Colebrook Road in Surrey. “That’s literally where gangster dreams go to die,” she said.
The unnamed woman describes an open casket funeral of one of the young victims – a deliberate choice of his parents to show the bullet through his head.
She was one of the lucky ones who has escaped the life.
Less fortunate was Brianna Kinnear who once reassured her worried mom “They don’t murder girls.”
The 22-year-old was found shot to death in a pickup truck in Coquitlam in 2009. Her murder is unsolved and her tearful mother is featured in a new CFSEU video.
The report also highlights two Abbotsford high school students who were executed in 2009 on Sumas Mountain as examples of adolescents lured by the temptation of a luxury lifestyle fueled by drug cash.
“They were not high-level drug lords,” the report says of the slain Grade 12s from W. J. Mouat Secondary School. “They were two kids who wanted to be able to pay for a limousine to get to prom.”
It says B.C. teachers are reporting children as young as nine asking 11-year-olds on elementary school playgrounds who they can talk to about selling some drugs.
Prevention remains a major focus of the CFSEU, which continues to press its End Gang Life initiative with school presentations and emotional videos from former gang members or surviving loved ones.
The province has committed new funding for 35 additional presentations of the CFSEU’s End Gang Life presentation to school students in the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan and Vancouver Island.
The sessions aim to demystify the tactics of gang recruiters and better equip kids to resist them.
They’re led by former gang member Jordan Buna, who served time in jail before becoming a spokesman for the End Gang Life program.
“Even though I was lucky and got out, being part of a gang was a death sentence for most of the people I knew. That is the reality of gang life,” Buna said. “It robbed me of so many opportunities and exposed me to horrifying scenes that I will never forget.”