Ten people have been killed in recent
weeks in Metro Vancouver - including two innocents caught up in
the attacks - in what police say is gang-related violence. No
one seems to know for sure whether some gang turf war is under
way or the rash of shootings is a statistical anomaly. But the
one common factor seems to be that most of the victims were
known criminals leading criminal lifestyles.
So what gives? Why is it so difficult to
put away known gangsters?
"That's a good question," says RCMP
Sergeant Shinder Kirk of the B.C. Integrated Gang Task Force.
He isn't being facetious. These days,
it's a question he believes many Canadians have, especially
those living in Metro Vancouver. The answer, not surprisingly,
Criminals, especially those operating in
the most well-established organizations, have become much more
sophisticated over the years. Police around the world are
fighting to keep up with the uses bad guys are making of new
technology. But there is an additional problem, one that is
particularly apt to Canada.
You can believe someone is involved in
organized crime, but getting the judicial authority to wiretap
his phone or search his property to help get the goods on him is
another matter entirely.
"The police must work within an
environment where the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable
doubt," Sgt. Kirk told me. "Getting that burden of proof is huge
and it's complicated and time consuming and just very difficult
Sgt. Kirk said that in one of the task
force's recent cases, it took nine officers 250 hours to prepare
an affidavit for one authorization. And if you're the cops
preparing that wiretap application, you'd better not screw up,
because if the judge gives you the go-ahead based on facts that
are the slightest bit wrong, any court case stemming from that
search will get thrown out.
It happens all the time.
All of which is to say that putting bad
guys behind bars is not simple. And the mass hysteria being
whipped up by the news media around the recent spate of gang
killings in Metro Vancouver isn't going to stop the next
shooting from occurring. Nothing, frankly, is going to prevent
gang members from blasting one another on street corners at 3
o'clock in the morning if that's what they're intent on doing.
It's like trying to prevent a suicide
bomber from pulling the cord in a crowded restaurant. It's
The proliferation of gangs and gang
shootings in Metro Vancouver has everything to do with the
region's burgeoning drug trade and very little to do with the
police's failure to bring the gang situation under some sort of
Can the police do a better job? Sure.
Would more officers dedicated to the task of battling gangs
help? Probably. But if you ask police who are on the ground
trying to deal with the problem and not sitting in offices
writing about it, the biggest obstacle they face is the
irrefutable evidence they must possess before getting wiretap or
How would Canadians feel about judges
lowering the burden of proof for those warrants?
My guess is most people would say no,
which is fine and probably the right decision. As long as we
understand that bad guys will continue to live in Shaughnessy
mansions and shoot each other in restaurants and on street