'Asian Assassins' not a major crime group, expert says

An expert on Canadian youth gangs says the so-called Asian Assassins — a group linked to last weekend's fatal shooting at Yorkdale Mall — is a low-level gang likely loosely connected to more traditional organized crime groups.

Gang linked to Yorkdale mall shooting that killed 23-year-old man

A 23-year-old man who police allege was a member of the Asian Assassins gang died after he was shot in the parking lot of Yorkdale Shopping Centre on Saturday. (CBC)

An expert on Canadian youth gangs says the so-called Asian Assassins — a group police have linked to last weekend’s fatal shooting at Yorkdale Shopping Centre — is a low-level gang connected to more traditional organized crime groups.

Michael Chuttleburgh is the author of Young Thugs: Inside the Dangerous World of Canadian Street Gangs. He appeared on Metro Morning Thursday and spoke with host Matt Galloway in the wake of last weekend's shooting in the mall's parking lot that killed Michael Nguyen, 23. A second man, who is 24 years old, was also shot but survived.

Police allege both men are members of the Asian Assassins, a group Chuttleburgh describes as a "scavenger" gang.

"These ‘Asian Assassins’ aren’t a big crew, have never been," said Chuttleburgh. "This is not a gang that I would say is on the top 10 of the police blotter.

"It’s a gang that would be called a scavenger crew. These are people that are involved in break and enters and extortion rackets against Asian-owned businesses."

Chuttleburgh said groups like the Assassins have connections to more established crime groups, such as the Triads, who recruit them to perform street-level work, including drug distribution.

"This is just one in a long line of small crews that operate in and around the priority communities of Toronto, including the Alexandra Park Community," said Chuttleburgh.

Gangs guarding their share of the drug trade

Chuttleburgh said the violence is often the result of ongoing turf wars as gangs involved in drug distribution work to protect their territory against rival groups.

He said the mentality among gangs is: "If I go into your turf and take your customers away, you resort to violence. You don’t make a competition bureau tribunal complaint. You go right to the guns to send a message: ‘Don’t mess with our market.’

"It often boils down to criminal markets and the control of those markets."

Chuttleburgh said Toronto’s gang violence pales in comparison to Chicago, a city close in size to Toronto that had 506 murders last year.

"Most of this violence is staying within the business of gangs," he said.

"We have to look to why these kids are turning to violence and gangs in the first place."