COLUMN: Turf war no time for cuts

Cuts to special police units will eventually mean an increase in organized crime in B.C., and Surrey will be one of the cities most affected.

The province has cut $4.2 million from the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) and Provincial Major Crime program, slicing a total of 25 investigators from the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang squad and the major-crimes’ missing persons and unsolved homicide team.

While spending on policing has to be managed, and policing needs change constantly, it is far too soon to cut back on enforcement which is targeting organized crime.

While a number of gang kingpins are in jail, most are either awaiting trial or in the midst of trials. The activities of their gangs continue. There is money to be made.

The Surrey Six trial is still underway. That particular trial has exposed the way that gang members think. Their thinking goes: Anyone who is part of a rival gang doesn’t deserve to live, nor in fact do any innocent bystanders who happen to be somewhere near where an execution takes place.

Surrey had a large number of murders last year. Not all of them were gang-related, but many were drug-related. Sometimes low-level drug dealers who aren’t part of gangs are taken out by someone bent on retribution.

The provincial cabinet, which ultimately made the decision to cut money from these policing units, needs to think back to the early months of 2009, when a wave of gangland slayings was underway. Several took place in Surrey. People were terrified, given that the crimes often took place in broad daylight.

It was pretty obvious that police had no idea of what was coming next. Several rival gangs were busy shooting at each other.

One morning in February 2009, Nicole Alemy, a White Rock woman associated with a gangster, was murdered while driving in Surrey.  A four-year-old child was in the back of her vehicle at the time. Many other shootings took place in Surrey in those few months.

In the first quarter of 2009, more than 20 people were killed and another 40 were wounded in this vicious turf war. Some of those crimes have been solved, but the turf war is far from over.

It is because of special policing units such as the ones being cut back that police were able to get more of a handle on the situation.

Surrey RCMP says, because it has a large force, it can absorb the activities of units that are facing cuts. That may be the case, but as has been proven many times, these crimes are not territorial. They take place in many jurisdictions, and combined units are far more effective.

Several Surrey politicians have suggested that these cuts will hurt. They are correct.

The police officers who are being moved to other units won’t be the ones suffering.

It will be the average people who get caught in middle of turf wars between gangsters, and it will be the young people who get caught up in what they think is a glamorous lifestyle. Only when it is too late do they realize what they have signed up for – an early grave, beatings, or, in some cases, significant time in jail.

The fights over drugs and other aspects of organized crime will always be with us. However, strong and quick responses to situations, such as those that happened in 2009, are vital for the welfare of the greater community.

Surrey and other Metro Vancouver areas need quick responses from police to situations of all types – and organized crime must be high on police departments’ lists.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

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