BY RATTAN MALL
YES, indeed, when will the big gangs take over from the two lower level gangs of South Asians that have been relentlessly battling it out over drug turf in Abbotsford for almost three years now?
About four months ago, I wrote that Abbotsford Police Constable Ian MacDonald told me that police had counted 38 incidents – significant acts of either violence or conflict between the groups since it started in 2014 – and had made 35 arrests. About 95 per cent of the members of both groups are South Asians.
Since then there have been other incidents. “They are still very much in conflict. … We’ve been talking about this for almost three years and there’s no end in sight,” MacDonald told me on Thursday.
You go back a decade and police were referring to the UN Gang and the Red Scorpions.
Six years ago, in October 2010, Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich announced to the media that the Duhre brothers and their associates had taken over the drug trade in the Fraser Valley from the Bacon brothers. He said the Duhres, who had worked for Bindy Johal, were operating gangs in the Valley.
“And now we are talking about things that have blown up into conflicts in Langley, in Surrey, in Abbotsford, in Vancouver … The unfortunate reality is there are people that are going to be inclined to be involved in gangs and then the drug trade,” MacDonald noted as we discussed the current situation.
“Do these two groups have any connection to the bigger gangs?” I asked MacDonald.
He pointed out that when you are talking about the drug trade, you are talking about connections that will inevitably lead to organized crime.
“From the standpoint of prosecution, that remains a work in progress. But from the standpoint of common sense, we know that they are connected,” he said.
“Pick your large organized crime gang of choice … Can you imagine that organization being aware of let’s say the ongoing battle between the factions in Townline Hill and either (a) not having an interest or (b) not having a care? There is no way that an established crime agency would allow it to go on,” he added.
MacDonald bluntly noted: “The drugs and the gangs continue – it’s just the players that change. Sometimes people are arrested, sometimes they are killed, sometimes the participants actually get out. But it’s only the participants that change, it’s not mechanism. People still want to exploit others.”
GOING WHERE THE MONEY IS
IN recent months, The VOICE has reported incidents of low-level gangsters from the Lower Mainland being arrested or killed in neighbouring Alberta. Navdeep Sidhu, 24 and Harman Mangat, 22, were shot dead in Edmonton on January 11 (as we reported in this paper and on our website last week).
Last November, Karman Singh Grewal, 24, of Langley and Ronjot Singh Dhami, 23, were among the seven arrested after three firearms and more than $40,000 in drugs and cash were seized from four homes in Alberta’s Grande Prairie. And Grewal had been arrested in October also and charged with two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of drugs, and possession of proceeds of crime.
So were the South Asian lower level drug dealers moving elsewhere?
MacDonald noted: “There’s some truth to that. I think there’s always the chance of displacement. … The reality is there’s some people that have left town and have remained in the drug trade, they remain connected to their gangs. There’s also been some people who have moved out of Abbotsford and actually got out of the drug trade. It’s not a huge number, but there are some people and some families who have taken the warnings and the situation seriously and have moved their loved ones out of the city, tried to get them a fresh start somewhere else.”
He added: “The reality of gangs and the realty of the drug trade is it’s not like they are just attached to one jurisdiction or one city; they are going to go where the money is. Like any other business model, they are going to chase money, they are going to chase opportunities wherever those opportunities are, whether it’s in Alberta or whether it’s in the Interior of B.C. … that’s where they are going to go.”
INVOLVING THE WHOLE FAMILY
“ARE the gangs still recruiting from schools?” I asked MacDonald.
“The recruitment is always ongoing and it’s disappointing. I mean how do you safeguard everyone from everything?” he responded.
He noted that this was like smoking. In spite of all the information out there about the health dangers of smoking, there are still people today that will go and buy a pack of cigarettes for the first time.
“So there are choices. … We just try to guide and encourage people to make good choices,” he added.
Unfortunately, those who were getting recruited are also getting their whole family involved. He referred to the shooting last Tuesday (January 17) involving a young South Asian male who was fired upon at a residence in the 2500-block of Janzen Street. The 22-year-old man had exited the home from the garage and was confronted by suspects who advanced up the driveway and began shooting. The man retreated back into the home and was fortunate to have suffered only minor injuries. The suspects fled in a waiting dark-coloured SUV, possibly a Nissan Pathfinder.
MacDonald told The VOICE that the South Asian man has had “some prior police contact but does not have any criminal convictions.” He could not say at this stage whether this incident was connected to the ongoing Townline Hill conflict between two groups of South Asians.
But he pointed out: “You have people inside that home. You’ve got a 22-year-old who … was lucky to escape with his life. But think about the people inside the house. They were sitting there watching TV and all of a sudden bullets start coming through the open garage door and into the interior walls of the house. So when you involve yourself into a gang, it’s not just you – you are not just making a choice about you – like you’ve pretty much brought your whole family along.”
MacDonald noted: “At the end of the day our objective is public safety, so over the last almost three years we’ve been trying anything and everything – and when you consider the fact that this conflict has been going on for that amount of time, there absolutely has been issues of public safety. But people have to remember that we have always made a concerted effort in suppressing the violence and keeping the people in check.”