A new police unit targeting organized crime is expressing concern about a street gang that recently moved into Saskatchewan from Alberta.
According to John Cantafio, the Regina-based RCMP inspector who heads the Combined Force Special Enforcement, police thought they had put the Crazy Dragons out of commission following a series of arrests in the fall.
"We thought we completely disrupted them, dismantled them, and we just got word last week that we got some more starting to float in from Alberta," he said.
In August, police in Saskatoon made five arrests against alleged members of the gang. Nine more arrests in Regina and Saskatoon followed.
Charges include participating in a criminal organization, directing a criminal organization, trafficking cocaine, conspiracy to traffic and possession of the proceeds of crime.
According to Cantafio, the gang had been in Edmonton and Calgary for more than a decade. Initially, most members were young Asian men, but in recent years, Caucasians and young women were getting involved. The gang started moving into Saskatchewan about a year ago, he said.
"They could see there was a bit of a vacuum here in Saskatchewan," Cantafio said. "They moved in here last fall in Regina and Saskatoon."
In connection with their arrival, police have been investigating "dial-a-dope" schemes where people make heavy use of cell phones and text messaging to distribute cocaine, crystal meth and marijuana.
Police believe the drugs are flowing to the Saskatchewan cities from Edmonton.
Organized crime costly
While some Saskatchewan people might be tempted to think organized crime doesn't affect them, that would be a mistake, Cantafio said.
The average person pays for gang activity in many ways— everything from higher insurance rates due to car thefts, to higher taxes to pay the costs of dealing with drug addiction and to treat knife and gunshot wounds.
The 10-person Combined Force Special Enforcement unit was set up as a pilot project last year and is now a going concern. Staffed with police in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert, it spends about a third of its $2.2-million budget on wiretaps, covert surveillance, special overtime projects and undercover operations.
Saskatchewan has 56 criminal organizations and is believed to have the highest number of street gang members per capita in all of Canada.
Cantafio said what police fear most is the violence resulting from turf wars among different gangs,something Alberta has experienced.
"It could get worse here," he said. "I hope not."