The gang problem in the Lower Mainland is worse following the emergence of two new gangs in the region, say Vancouver police, who are troubled by the gangsters' use of guns.
The Vancouver Police Department's gang squad addressed the issue in a media briefing on Wednesday, after two recent brazen attacks at city restaurants raised concerns of residentsabout violence.
Two groups — the Independent Soldiers and United Nations — have organized in the past five years, on top ofthe Hells Angels and Asian gangs that have been operating in the city for decades, said Sgt. Steve Hyde.
Police couldn't give firm numbers, but Hyde said there are between 300 and 500 gang members in those four groups across the province.
"Probably what we're seeing with the introduction of firearms is similar to what we've seen in the west coast of the United States 15 [to] 20 years ago," he said. "We're seeing an acceptable use of firearms to resolve problems in criminal organizations."
Masked gunmen on Saturday targeted an Indo-Canadian man and shot him through the window of the posh Quattro restaurant in Kitsilano, sending him to hospital with serious abdominal injuries.
On Aug. 9, two gunmen sprayed bullets into Fortune Happiness restaurant in East Vancouver during the early morning hours, killing two and injuring six others.
Police have said both shootings, which were still under investigation, were targeted and likely gang-related.
Insp. Dean Robinson said despite the growth of gangs and the recent public shootings, it doesn't appear to be the beginning of a gang war in Vancouver.
"I believe what we're looking at regionally is there's been some events that have occurred that are very high profile," Robinson said Wednesday. "Of course, they involved extreme violence, the use of firearms and violence through other means that have gang ties and gang overtones."
A team of 17 officers continually targets gang members in Vancouver and their conviction rate is excellent, police said.