Top cop’s anti-gang stance clarified
In the wake of a call by Surrey’s top cop for business owners to take a stand against those involved with gangs, police are clarifying the message was not intended to encourage confrontation.
“The safer route is to contact the police when you believe there are gang members or organized-crime-linked individuals in your place of business and you would like them checked or moved along,” Cpl. Bert Paquet said Wednesday.
Paquet was responding to Peace Arch News’ questions regarding the announcement by Chief Supt. Bill Fordy the day after the brazen daylight shooting of 28-year-old Craig Widdifield April 24.
Widdifield was gunned down in the parking lot of Morgan Crossing shopping centre just before 7 p.m., in what police soon after described as a “merciless… targeted, gang-associated killing.”
The next day, Fordy promised increased police pressure on those associated with criminal activity, and called on business owners to deliver the message, “You are not welcome here.”
Paquet cautioned citizens and business owners alike against doing anything rash.
“We recommend trying to avoid any kind of confrontation, or getting involved in a situation that would place anybody from our community at risk,” he said. “While we feel that citizens should be able to go shopping or go to the restaurant or any place of business and not be confronted by organized-gang members… we are also urging them not to confront them themselves.”
Instead, simply share as much information with police about the individuals as possible.
“That’s where the public is key,” Paquet said.
Fordy’s call to action has generated such tips, he said, and information gleaned on individuals with known gang affiliations is being shared with agencies across Canada.
As a result of increased police presence in the week since Widdifield’s death, officers have approached or questioned more than 120 individuals and visited more than 70 businesses – the majority of those in South Surrey.
“These interactions have led to five arrests for drug-related offences, as well as several driving prohibitions or other Motor Vehicle Act infractions being enforced,” Paquet said.
Police are also cracking down on court-order violations such as missed curfews and no-contact orders, he said.
“We do those on a regular basis, we just do a lot more of those lately,” Paquet said, describing the tactic as “uniform-based suppression.”
The targets of the strategy are “making it very clear they do not appreciate the increase in contact,” Paquet added. “Our officers are definitely at the end of harassment allegations by some of the individuals we’re targeting,” he said. “We’re not surprised. But moving forward, we owe it to our community to continue.”
Paquet could not comment on the status of the Widdifield-murder investigation. It is in the hands of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.