British Columbia

Vancouver police to set up new gang task force

Police in Vancouver are putting together a new task force to attack the gang problem in the city following the latest killings early Tuesday morning.

Police in Vancouver are putting together a task force to attack the gang problem in the city following the latest killings, early Tuesday.

Two men were shot dead in a car at the intersection of Granville Street and 70th Avenuearound 2:15 a.m., bringing the total number of targeted killings in the city to four this week alone.

Deputy Chief Bob Rich said at a news conference Tuesday morning that police are deciding how many officers should be assigned to thetask force, and what the new strategy will involve.

"The task force will be very much [an] in-your-face kind of task force, confronting people who are in gangs, finding out where they live," said Rich.

Across the Lower Mainland, 17 people have been killed in targeted shootings in 2007, prompting debate overwhether the province should create a single police force for the entire Metro Vancouver area.

Currently, Vancouver, Delta, West Vancouver, and New Westminster have their own police forces. Other municipalities in the Lower Mainlandare policed by the RCMP.

In a newspaper article on Monday, before the latest killings, Kash Heed, West Vancouver's new police chief, wrotethat every department now works "within its own silo of self interest."

But Solicitor General John Lessaid police forces in the Lower Mainland are already co-operating, and he sees no need to consider amalgamation.

"[Heed] may be of the opinion that the current organization of police in the Lower Mainland is not appropriate. A lot of people beg to differ, myself included," said Les.

Les said all the police forces work together on several teams, including the integrated homicide investigation team, the integrated gang squad, and the special forces.

"I think we are properly organized to deal with these kinds of criminal activity and the debate about whether it should be this or whether it should be that is a bit of an unproductive red herring right now," said Les.

"Obviously you've got to have maximum sharing of information, and that is in fact happening," he said.

NDP Public Safety critic and MLA Mike Farnworth said the minister's response is unacceptable.

"I think that's one of the problems with this solicitor general and this government," saidFarnworth. "They take a status quo, business-as-usual approach and it's unacceptable, and people who want to raise ideas are slapped down and that's wrong."

There's a lot the provincial and federal governments can do to combat crime, including giving courts and prosecutors more resources, Farnworth said.

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan said Tuesday he's open to the idea of a regional police force for all of Greater Vancouver.

Sullivan said he blamed the escalating gang violence on the enormous profits in the drug industry.

While he has faith the Vancouver police will work to bring the criminals to justice, Sullivan said the city needs more financial help from the federal government.

"They're cutting taxes and at the city level we have to deal with the guns and gangs and drugs. We are very much pressured by our budgets," he said.