KELOWNA - With summer just around the corner and numerous high draw events on the calendar, the local RCMP are warning out-of-town gang members to stay away from Kelowna.
RCMP Const. Kris Clark says police have noticed a considerable rise in gang presence over the past several years, especially during the summer months, and they are taking steps to ensure the safety of the public.
“Families will be coming to the sunny Okanagan for their holidays,” Clark says. “Unfortunately, the nice weather also brings gang members and their associates.”
Clark says the RCMP’s main concern is the drugs they bring, not necessarily a repeat of the 2011 shooting that killed alleged gang leader Jonathan Bacon.
“That level of gang violence is fortunately rare,” Clark says. “The drugs they bring and fear they incite damage the community just as much as any gang murder.”
Throughout the summer, local RCMP will work closely with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit as well as agencies from outside the province.
Already this year, local RCMP were called to remove suspected gang members from several bars and hotels over the May long weekend.
“We had a number of groups from outside of town that came here essentially to cause trouble,” Clark says. “We worked with staff and management of hotels and bars to remove these people who weren’t wanted.”
Clark says the majority of those removed that weekend were found to be members of Lower Mainland gangs.
"By using our own expertise as well as that of police from other jurisdictions we will be able to quickly and efficiently identify gang members and their associates," says Supt. Nick Romanchuk. "We want them to know that they are not anonymous here, they are not wanted here and if they commit an offence of any kind, there will be zero tolerance."
Last year, Kelowna RCMP and members of CFSEU-BC issued a similar warning only days ahead of the start of Centre of Gravity. Clark says although the majority of attendees at the sports and music festival were well-behaved, there was room for improvement.
Organizers agreed to several changes for 2014, including moving the festival off the already-busy August long weekend, as well as stepping up enforcement both on- and off-site.
“Last year we certainly saw an influx of gang members, not just from around the province but from Alberta as well,” Clark says. “This year we’ve added a few more tools to our belt and we want them to know they’re not going to be anonymous when they get here.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at email@example.com or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.