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Eric Rankin on gang violence

CBC's Eric Rankin during a live report on the Surrey murders. (CBC)
Eric Rankin has been covering the murder of six men in Surrey, and other recent gang violence.

This is your chance to ask our reporter about gang activity in the Lower Mainland.

Use the form below to send in your question, and check back to read Eric's answers.



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Comments: (9)

Graham Savage (Lantzville_BC) wrote:

Q| You mention that there are approx 120 gangs in B.C.and that the drug and gang problem are increasing. The Police frenquently mention lack of manpower to work on the problem.
Considering that Canada seems very willing to put troops into regions of the world where there are 'crises'; isn't the damage as a result of drugs to our society and it's young and vulnerable people, enough of a crisis to warrant involvement of troops in assisting the RCMP in flushing out these gangs?

A| Canadian troops, for the most part, are not trained in criminal investigation or intelligence gathering or urban operations in modern cities, with the possible exception of small squads such as JTF2, Canada's elite commando unit (see this CBC News article for more information).

It takes exceptional circumstances to place Canadian soldiers on city streets—and such action often sparks controversy.

The most recent examples that spring to mind would be the during the FLQ crisis of 1970 (under the War Measures Act) 37 years ago this month, and the big Toronto snow storm of 1999.

While recent gang- and drug-related crimes in the Vancouver area have been abhorrent—and violence has spilled into public areas—most Canadians would probably agree we've yet to reach the point where there is an all-out "war on the streets".

Would police forces like to have more manpower and more money? Absolutely. Would they like to see Canadian troops take to the streets at this point? Very unlikely.

Posted October 28, 2007 09:24 PM

Mario Zorro (East_Van_) wrote:

Q| Do you think that traditional organized crime (call it the mafia or the triads) has a duty to keep order in the underworld? [...] Every where has crime, it's better when it's organised IE. Las Vegas and not total anarchy like these killings. Is it a failure of the Canadian organised syndicates for not keeping order on the streets?

A| Hmmm... The police in Las Vegas may beg to differ.

Do you really believe your assertion that "Every where has crime, it's better when it's organized"?

Society has established laws to clearly delineate what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable. The worst of what we term "unacceptable" is labeled "crime". Organizing crime means making it more efficient. Do we really want crime to be better organized? To allow, for instance, drug trafficking to be streamlined into an smooth-running industry, where criminals can better determine who makes the money, who is punished, and how severely they are punished if there are double-crosses or rivalries?

Organized crime rules, by it's very nature, through fear and brutality. That's why we have terms like "gangland murders" & "targeted hits". In fact, the slaying of 6 people in Surrey—2 of them innocent bystanders—is probably directly tied to "organized crime".

The mid-level gang members who were the targets of the killers were "organized" to a certain extent (ie. working together). And they likely ran afoul of another "organized crime" element—whether it be other mid-level rivals, or a much bigger gang of criminals.

Posted October 26, 2007 12:21 PM

Marie (kamloops) wrote:

Q| what do the police think the reason is for the killings?

A| Investigators aren't keen to share all of their leads with reporters. As you can understand, their priority is solving the case, not tipping off the killers.

But the likeliest theory from police at this point is that the murders were sparked by rivalries between gangs—perhaps a dispute over a drug deal gone sour or a drug turf war.

Police sources say the 4 reputed gang members were likely mid-level dealers. They could have run afoul of a bigger, more powerful gang— or clashed with another mid-level group.

Either way, the victims appeared to know their killers. I'm the only reporter who has been to the murder scene, and there is no sign of forced entry on the door.

The best theory is there was some kind of meeting at the Balmoral apartment— with the victims expecting perhaps a truce or a transaction— but the killers had other plans. The 2 innocent victims—the gas repairman and the neighbour—happened to see the faces of the murderers, and were executed along with the 4 others.

Posted October 26, 2007 10:46 AM

Aminah (Surrey_BC) wrote:

Q| How are young people getting recruited to be drug dealers?

A| In this case, the young men who were killed seemed to have been responsible for forming their own gang.

They all knew each other from attending North Surrey Secondary—and of course, Michael and Corey Lal were brothers. All had run-ins with the law, and many had already been charged with drug- and weapons-related offences.

As for recruitment, that can happen almost anywhere—from high schools to night clubs to the family home. We already know that the "856" gang (so-called because most of its young members live in the Fraser Valley's 856 phone prefix) have been actively seeking new recruits and selling drugs in Fraser Valley high schools. Recently, one of its top members was told not to return to a Langley High school.

Why are young people embracing gang life and becoming drug dealers? They're no doubt seeking fame (or infamy), fortune and a fast life.

I've seen one gang member with "Live Fast" tattooed across his stomach. The rest of that phrase—"Die Young"—isn't tattooed...but goes unspoken. Bottom line: there's a lot of money to be made from dealing drugs. And there are some young people prepared to risk their lives to live that lifestyle.

Posted October 26, 2007 10:37 AM

Lance Roseman-Wildwood (Roberts_Creek) wrote:

Q| Is MS13 in Vancouver?

A| MS13 has been described as "the most dangerous gang in the Americas"—but it's an open question as to whether there is a chapter active in the Vancouver area.

The gang comes out of Central America—Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala—and in fact, one MS13 member stands accused of blowing up a bus in Honduras.

In Vancouver a decade ago, Central American gangs were a serious problem in the Commercial Drive area—clashing with Asian gangs for control of the drug trade. Today, El Salvadoran gangs have been linked to crack dealing in the Downtown Eastside.

No doubt there are people in the Vancouver area who claim to be MS13 members. Whether they have actual ties to the real MS13 gang in Central America—well, your guess is as good as mine. But based on your question, I will check into this.

Posted October 25, 2007 12:17 PM

b. (Vancouver) wrote:

Q| What does the BC Organized Crime Agency do? How did we know if the money spent there is helping reduce gang violence. Because since they been around seem like gang violence is on the upswing.

A| The Organized Crime Agency of British Columbia is currently headed by the RCMP's Division "E"—the main headquarters for the mounties in the province.

The Agency's job is to coordinate law enforcement efforts aimed at combating organized crime and the gangs involved.

There's been a lot of criticism lately regarding a lack of cooperation and coordination between police forces and the RCMP in the Metro Vancouver area. As a result, there have been calls for an integrated metropolitan police force. Those calls have just been rejected by the B.C. Government.

But in fact, there's already a lot of coordination between police forces in the Vancouver area—partially because of the Organized Crime Agency of BC.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) currently investigating the Surrey multiple murders is a good example of that kind of cooperation—hence the use of the word "integrated."

Forces ranging from the Vancouver Police Department to Abbotsford Police have been working with the RCMP on this case. I've personally seen Abbotsford police officers searching Surrey parks and ditches in connection with the investigation.

As for how the Organized Crime Agency of BC spends its money, that information should be available through the Auditor General. We'll investigate.

Your observation that gang violence has been on the upswing since the formation of the Organized Crime Agency of BC is correct—but not likely linked.

There's been a serious gang problem in the Vancouver area for decades. (Remember the feared Asian gangs of the 80's?) The Agency was formed in more recent years to try to get ahead of the problem.

Unfortunately, the gangs have continued to grow, and the police have been unable to keep a lid on the escalating crime and violence.

The string of recent gang hits—the "Fortune Happiness" restaurant slayings in August, the "Quattro" restaurant shooting in September, and the Surrey multiple murder this month—are a grim testament to that.

Posted October 25, 2007 11:56 AM

Brigitte Hayes (Redmond_WA) wrote:

Q| Who are the gang members that were killed? Although their names have been published, we know nothing about them other than the fact that they have criminal records. Where were they born? How did they come to be together in that apartment that day?

A| We have been trying to get those very details you ask about.

For the past several days we've been asking families and friends of the reputed gang members to tell us—and you—about these murdered young men.

But as you can imagine, those closest to the dead have been in mourning. Some are still considering our requests. In order to try to gain some insight, we have delved into tributes and memorials posted by friends and loved-ones on the internet—Facebook in particular.

But as to how these 4 men ended up in that apartment last Friday, only a handful of people know that. Some of them are likely the killers. And not surprisingly, none of them is talking—for now.

Posted October 25, 2007 07:01 AM

John Doe (cloverdale) wrote:

Q| What can be done about publishing pictures of known gang members?[...] If I spotted a known gang member I would then have the option of not being in the same room as them at a house party for fear a retaliation hit is coming.

A| That's a good point—and in the past we have broadcast the kind of modern-day "wanted" posters you seem to be asking about.

We've also shown gangland "family trees"—detailing who is involved with what gang, who are rivals, etc.

But there are problems. The walls of B.C.'s anti-gang squads are covered with photos of suspected gang members, but the police won't show them to the media.

Why? Because these gang members are under active investigation...and to release the photos would ruin weeks—maybe even years—of work.

However, if suspects are facing charges or are posing an immediate danger to the public, we at CBC News will be among the first to push to have their identities exposed.

Stay tuned.

Posted October 24, 2007 07:15 PM

Dirk (New_Jersey_a_former_Burnaby_resident) wrote:

Q| How many gangs are out there in Vancouver? and does the gang view Vancouver as a place of potential for further growth?

A| There are an estimated 120 gangs in our province, most of them in the Metro Vancouver area, according to the B.C. Integrated Gang Task Force—but no one really knows for sure.

That number includes the very organized big Biker gangs and Asian triads, down to mid- and low-level local gangs.

Those smaller groups tend to be particularly volatile, violent and unpredictable. Members can be friends one day, and rivals the next. Because of that ebb and flow, it's hard to keep track of exact numbers.

As for potential future growth of gangs, several things come together here that create a "perfect storm" of criminal activity and profit:

-Vancouver is a major port. As a result, drugs (especially heroin) come-in directly from Asia

-Southern B.C. is a prime producer and exporter of "home grown" marijuana ("B.C. Bud")

-Vancouver is close to the voracious and lucrative drug market in the U.S., and to the ready supply of guns south of the border.

You can see why the province's anti-gang squads have their hands full.

Posted October 24, 2007 06:27 PM

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