B.C.’s anti-gang police unit is taking a step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) is the integrated team of 400 officers and civilians from 14 different agencies, including RCMP and municipal police forces, that disrupt and suppress organized crime around the province.
Their investigations have cracked big cases, such as the discovery of an audacious cross-border drug-smuggling tunnel in Aldergrove and the unraveling of a massive international money-laundering ring.
The CFSEU is now out to capture a bigger public profile with the publication of its first-ever Community Report.
The report can be read online at bc-anti-gang.com.
Sgt. Lindsey Houghton said the aim is to make more people aware of the CFSEU and what it does.
The initiative comes as the anti-gang force chalks up a major win – the arrest in February of three men in the murder of notorious gangster Jonathan Bacon, who was shot with four associates in 2011 outside a Kelowna casino.
“Some people never thought that day would ever come,” Houghton said. “Or that the police would ever take something like that seriously. That was one of the watershed moments in the history of Kelowna.”
Houghton said the report pulls together a broader picture of the CFSEU’s work than people see in daily news media coverage.
“It seems like every couple of weeks or month we’ve got an interesting story to tell and this was one way for us to tell it,” he said.
The report includes stories of officers tracking members of the Dhak/Duhre crime group who make up one side of the ongoing bloody gang conflict in B.C.
And it also releases intriguing findings on who is most likely to end up a victim of the gang violence that occasionally erupts in B.C.
CFSEU researchers found the vast majority of gang-related murder victims over a four-year period had previous drug charges or convictions, and often violent criminal pasts.
Most were gang members, not just associates or minor players in the drug trade, and a few were girlfriends or an innocent victim, like a man who was shot in Burnaby after picking up a Bacon brother vehicle to install a car stereo in it.
B.C. gang-related killings peaked at 36 in 2009 before dropping to 18 last year.
Victims are overwhelmingly men and their average age is 30, according to CFSEU stats.
Three-quarters of bodies are found near the victims’ homes or vehicles.
Most (85 per cent) were shot, but eight per cent were viciously beaten, six per cent were stabbed and one victim was burned to death.
Also included are key risk factors for ending up in a gang and tips for parents on spotting potential signs of gang involvement. Carrying multiple cellphones, having unexplained cash and making frequent brief trips out of the home are among the red flags.
The report details how police try to keep gangsters out of bars and restaurants to keep them from recruiting new blood, as well as to prevent gang violence.
This month the CFSEU said it will publicly identify suspected gangsters where possible as a new tactic to make it more difficult for organized crime to operate.
After a gang-related shooting outside a gym in South Surrey, senior officers are also pledging backup for businesses that make gangsters feel unwelcome in their premises.
For more on the CFSEU, check out their website at cfseu.bc.ca or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.