KELOWNA – With one of the city’s biggest festivals taking place in downtown Kelowna this weekend, local RCMP are once again issuing a public warning to gang members planning to take part.
Sgt. Lindsey Houghton of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit says every year gangs are drawn to the Okanagan, but they are not here for the sunshine and recreation opportunities. They are here to break the law.
“We all know the south Okanagan is not only an amazing place to live, but attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year,” he says. “Unfortunately that also includes gangsters.”
Houghton says police will be doing everything in their power again this year to make it as difficult as possible for gangsters to operate, not only during the Centre of Gravity weekend, but throughout the summer.
“We use every single law… at our disposal,” he says. “If they so much as jaywalk we’re going to stop them. If they’re on boats without enough (life jackets) we’re going to stop them. This needs to be a place where people can feel safe.”
Const. Kris Clark says although he is happy with the level of security provided by COG, the majority of incidents last year happened outside the festival. In order to keep residents safe, more resources will be allocated towards patrols outside the fence.
Houghton says COG weekend is also a unique intelligence gathering opportunity as well.
“It offers us insight into their world, who they’re talking to, who they might be doing business with and who they’re looking to do business with,” he says.
CFSEU members will be present at COG as well as Boonstock in Penticton. They will also be present on the water, enforcing boat safety rules and looking for those trying to avoid the police.
“We will be on the water to ensure those gangsters and their associates who may look to be avoiding police scrutiny and doing their dirty business,” he says. “We will be watching.”
Houghton says although they are not anticipating any gang-related issues this year they are prepared for the worst.
“Our message to gangsters… from Vancouver, Calgary and all points in between is you are not welcome here,” he says. “If you do come, include us in your weekend plans because you are included in ours.”
RCMP Const. Kris Clark and CFSEU Sgt. Lindsey Houghton announced today they would be stepping up their presence on the streets during COG weekend.
(ADAM PROSKIW /InfoTel Multimedia)
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