950 organized crime groups in Canada: report

Police identified 950 organized crime groups operating in Canada in 2007, up from 800 the year before.

Police identified 950 organized crime groupsoperating in Canada in 2007, up from 800 the year before, according to a report released Friday.

The report, prepared by Canada's Criminal Intelligence Service, provides a picture of organized crime in the country based on information provided by police forces and law enforcement agencies across the country.

But RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, who chaired the report,said the findings do not necessarily mean there are more crime groups operating in Canada —it may just mean that police are getting better at working together to identify the groups.

"We're encouraged because we know that this year we're in a position to know more about the number of groups, their activities, and that is very much helping our enforcement efforts,"Elliott told reporters ata press conference in Calgary.

The report notes that 80 per cent of organized crime groups are involved in theillegal drug trade, with the most popular drug being marijuana and the biggest grow operations found in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

Cocaine is key for some of Canada's most sophisticated crime groups, with the drug arriving primarily from Colombia and the rest of South America, but also fromtransfer countries like the United States, Jamaica, Mexico and Haiti.

The report also touches on weapons, noting that many criminal groupshaveguns for personal use, butmost are not involved in selling them,since the firearms trade is generally less profitable than the drug trade.

Most groups acquiretheir gunssmuggling them into Canada from the United States or by stealing them.Since 1974,about 85,000 guns have been reported missing or stolen in Canada, and almost half of them are restricted firearms like handguns.

Some groups use alternate channels to help acquire guns, like the internet.

The report says other activities Canada's criminal groups are involved in include money laundering, contraband trade, human trafficking, telemarketing schemes, mortgage fraud and car theft.

Criminal groups work with each other

The report notes that only a few of Canada's criminal groups are sophisticated enough to mount elaborate operations. These operations are hard to detect and are typically run out of major urban centres, with criminal leaders coercing or employing legitimate professionals, like lawyers, accountants and business people, to help them.

The large groups also rely on smaller criminal groups to distribute their products. The report notes that almost all criminal groups are working with other criminal groups in some way.

"They talk to each other, they cross paths with each other as we would cross paths in business," Calgary police Chief Jack Beaton said at the press conference with Elliott.

The Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, founded in 1970, draws together nearly 380 law enforcement agencies whogatherand share intelligence information about criminal activity in the country.