British Columbia’s solicitor general says a meeting with representatives from police agencies is an opportunity to get a full sense of the “intolerable” situation facing Lower Mainland communities amid a gang conflict.
Mike Farnworth met with police representatives Thursday following a recent spate of shootings that have left gang members dead or injured on streets, in mall parking lots and at Vancouver’s airport.
At a news conference earlier in the day, Farnworth said the meeting would be a chance to hear about how the different law enforcement agencies are working together.
“It’s also an opportunity to identify any potential gaps,” he said.
“Police said it’s not about resources so I also want to make sure there’s not any other areas we need to be focusing on.”
The public needs to know that “every tool and every resource” is brought to bear on this recent upsurge in gang violence, he said.
“The police are doing everything we can,” Farnworth said. “The message to the public is that we are all focused on this.”
Supt. Dave Chauhan, officer in charge of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said this week that there could be many reasons for the conflict, including personal vendettas or drugs and territorial disputes.
The police are seeing more young people forming gangs and there are splinter groups from those leading to multiple ones, he said.
Premier John Horgan said this week the government wants to make sure they’re “focused like a laser” on addressing criminality.
“The first order of business of course is to stop the flow of young people into the gang lifestyle,” he said Tuesday.
“But clearly the brazen nature of the violence we’ve seen over the past two weeks requires law enforcement intervention.”
The comments come after a 28-year-old gang member was killed outside the departure terminal at Vancouver’s airport on Sunday. Someone in the getaway vehicle later fired shots and hit a pursuing police cruiser.
Police announced on Monday that Ahmed Tahir has been charged with first-degree murder for the shooting in Burnaby on Saturday that left Toni Dalipi, 19, dead and injured the bystander.
An expert on gangs said the very public nature of the recent series of shootings in Metro Vancouver may be attributed to COVID-19 restrictions, with rivals striking at the first chance they get.
Martin Bouchard, a professor in Simon Fraser University’s school of criminology, said the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings.
Gang violence follows its own course regardless of what the initial motive was for the conflict, he said.
Bouchard is confident police have a good handle on the situation.
“And they know that as the age of the victims gets younger, they need to innovate in terms of their ability to get inside (the gangs).”
This means that informants need to be younger and the police also have to have experts who can find information online.
“And my sense is that the analysts and sometimes civilians working for law enforcement are getting better and better at finding information on these people online through open-source intelligence methods,” Bouchard said.
These gang conflicts tend to go in cycles and once they start, they take on a life of their own, he said.
“Sometimes these start based on perception of disrespect between two people,” he said.
“It could be, you know, a romantic relationship gone wrong. Regardless of the initial motive, we are in a cycle of retaliation. It will follow its course to its — hopefully — conclusion very soon.”
Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.