August 04, 2013 - 11:10 AM
GANGSTERS TAKE VACATIONS TOO
KELOWNA - Kelowna is often a gathering point on the B.C. Day long weekend for tourists, partyers, gangsters and this year, to keep on top of all of them—more police.
With the Centre of Gravity festival estimated to bring an extra 30,000 people to the city, in addition to the typical influx of vacationers from the Lower Mainland and Alberta, police are amping up their forces and specifically targetting organized crime and gang violence. This year, both Penticton and Kelowna RCMP are getting back up from B.C.'s Special Enforcement Unit.
Sgt. Lindsey Houghton of the SEU, a provincial task force to target gangs, says not all visitors are wanted in the Okanagan.
"The Central and South Okanagan is a great place to live and attracts visitors from around B.C. and that includes gangsters," he says, especially on the B.C. Day long weekend, attracting people from the Lower Mainland and Alberta.
"Every B.C. Day long weekend that we have been here we see gang members and their associates," he says. "Gangsters take vacations too."
For the first time, Special Enforcement Unit officers will be patrolling Okanagan Lake, as well.
"If you're a gangster and you think you can avoid detection while out on the water, we're going to prove you wrong," Houghton says.
Police do not expect any gang violence this weekend, but just shy of the two-year anniversary of the Jonathan Bacon shooting, they have the tactical resources on hand should anything happen.
Recent efforts targetting suspects in bars, restaurants, boat launches and on the beaches have already made a positive impact, Houghton says.
"We've been told anecdotally that they're starting to avoid those events because they know we're there," he says.
Const. Rick Aitchinson says their message is loud and clear that any gang member or associates are not welcome in Kelowna or Penticton.
"But if you do decide to come up here this weekend, make sure you include us in your plans," he says.
Kelowna RCMP Const. Kris Clark says manpower will be concentrated in the downtown core, at City Park and near the Centre of Gravity House, along with traffic checks and street enforcement teams.
Regardless of the weather, Clark says they're prepared for a high volume of calls this weekend.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013