SGT. Lindsey Houghton of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – BC (CFSEU-BC) says: “We’ve only recorded two gang-related homicides for 2014 which is significantly lower than in past years. So we are on pace for an all-time low if this continues.”
And that’s good news – for now.
I asked Houghton if there had been any shift in the gang alignments over the past few months and he replied that it remains the same.
He noted: “It’s fairly well know that on one side of the gang landscape or gang violence here you’ve got groups like the Red Scorpions, Independent Soldiers and Hells Angels, and then on the other side you’ve got groups like the United Nations, the remnants of the Dhak-Duhre group and some of the smaller cells of criminals that were aligned with them. And then in each of those groups you’ve got different offshoot groups or cells of people who are on one side of the other and at times they flow back and forth.”
I asked Houghton if police were anticipating any alignments or shifts in the gang scene in the future and he replied; “There is nothing that would indicate to us that there are any major alignment shifts on the horizon.”
But he added: “Now that being said, there are always individual people or small, little groups in the gang landscape who change sides and change sides frequently. And that’s what can sometimes lead to some public violence or retribution against those people. We’ve seen that many, many times in the past and there is no reason to think that that’s not going to continue because these people are driven by greed.”
He elaborated: “Money is the number one driver of that and if, for example, you have a group of three or four people who run a dial-a-dope or drug trafficking network in a community, and the people that are higher up in the food chain no longer give them the drugs to sell, they have to keep their business going, so they’ll go somewhere else.
“They’ll try to make new connections or new alignments and then that will of course as one would anticipate probably create problems for them and for the people who are working with them and for them and for that neighbourhood, and as police we need to be able to stay on top of that intelligence if were able to gather it.”
FALSE GLAMOUR OF GANGS
Houghton then highlighted the false glamour of gangs that seems to wow youths.
He noted: “These people who are involved in that life they know what’s it like and all the testimony from the Surrey Six Trial has given all of us great insight into the inner workings of that world – that shadowy world of gangs.
“You have people like Person Y [who can’t be named because of a court ordered ban on identifying him] on the stand talking about how it’s not your enemies that you have to worry about; it’s your friends.
“You’ve got Michael Le [Red Scorpions gang founder who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the Surrey Six murder case in a deal to testify against gang members Cody Haevischer and Matt Johnston] on the stand talking about how he’s now so ashamed of what he created and all these kinds of things.”
Houghton also observed that these gang members “often end up addicted to the drugs that they are selling and they live in a constant state of fear and paranoia where they don’t always have to worry about the police; they have to worry about their so-called friends and they have to worry about their so-called enemies and in the case of the Surrey Six, the knock on the door that could end up costing you your life.”
Innocent victims Chris Mohan, 22, a South Asian, and Edward J. Schellenberg, 55, of Abbotsford and four other victims who police say led criminal lifestyles – brothers Corey Jason Michael Lal, 21, and Michael Justin Lal, 26, and Edward (Eddie) Sousakhone Narong, 22, and Ryan Bartolomeo, 19 – were executed in typical gang-style fashion at Apartment 1505 of the Balmoral Towers at 9830 East Whalley Ring Road in Surrey on October 19, 2007.
Houghton pointed out: “There are so many myths related to gangs and so many falsehoods, it’s unbelievable, and that actually is part of the work that I do, talking to people in communities and doing high school talks and getting out and talking to young people.
“It’s important to get that message out because kids believe those myths. They think it’s all Scarface and Sopranos and you’re going to have so much money, you’re not going to know what to do with it.
“And it’s so untrue and all you have to do is listen to people like Michael Le or Person Y or any of these other people – you just listen to their stories and see how their life turns out. It happens to all of them.”
SHADY WORLD OF TRIADS
I asked Houghton about the Triads that were mentioned recently at the Surrey Six trial by Michael Le and wondered how they managed to keep away from these rivalries with the other groups.
Houghton explained: “They are very insular. They don’t often interact in public like a lot of Lower Mainlander / B.C. gangsters do. They are often many degrees of separation from the frontline operations of a criminal organization like a drug-dealing network or whatever it is.”
He added: “Michael Le from the Surrey Six trial has talked a little about his involvement with the triads and a how a lot of what they do is definitely not in the open – it’s very concentrated on their ethnicity.
“A lot of the crimes that they commit aren’t against society in general, it’s against … people from their own countries and which results oftentimes in underreporting to the police because of language barriers or mistrust of the police and depending on where they come from. And that’s nothing new; that’s something that’s been going on for years.
“When I was the spokesperson for the Vancouver Police, I remember doing a couple of warnings asking people to phone the police and to make people aware of extortions that were going on in Cantonese with Asian business owners. Someone would phone up and speak to them in Cantonese or Mandarin, tell them that if they didn’t pay up $20,000 or however much it was that they were going to hurt their family back in Mainland China or Hong Kong or Taiwan or wherever it was, and a lot of times people wouldn’t phone the police because they didn’t know what to do.”
But, he noted: “We ended up getting some phone calls and the Vancouver police were able to successfully work with Chinese people in making some arrests in China.
“So it’s about reminding all segments of the population no matter where you come from or what your language is that crime affects everybody and if this is happening you need to phone the police so we can investigate it. It doesn’t matter if it’s Red Scorpions or the Big Circle Boys [East Asian gang].”
HELLS ANGELS WELL ESTABLISHED
Then I asked Houghton about some recent reports suggesting that the Rock Machine motorcycle gang was trying to establish themselves in B.C.
He said: “There is no indication at all that the Rock Machine or any other outlaw motorcycle gang is threatening to move into British Columbia and establish a presence here.”
He pointed out: “People have to remember that the Hells Angels have had a longstanding presence here in British Columbia – they’ve got over 100 full-patch members here in B.C. and a number of different club houses in a number of different communities.
“If any group were to do that or try to come into British Columbia, they would have to bring in as many as the Hells Angels do or more in order to compete with them. And when you look at the Rock Machine, I don’t think there are 100 members Canada-wide. There aren’t that many of them.”
Houghton added: “You know there may be and there likely are a few people from different outlaw motorcycle gangs in British Columbia. We’ve seen them before and some people end up moving to British Columbia, but there is no firm movement for them to establish like a base of operations and expand their gang here in British Columbia.”