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B.C. creates a special homicide unit as gangs involved in 46 per cent of murders

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth speaks during an RCMP news conference announcing a significant seizure of illegal tobacco products in Surrey, B.C., on Friday, March 8, 2024.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

VICTORIA - British Columbia is forming a new police unit tasked with investigating gang-related homicides, saying almost 50 per cent of the murders in the province last year were connected to gangland crimes.

Data from the Ministry of Public Safety says gang-related homicides have climbed from 21 per cent of all killings in the province in 2003 to 46 per cent last year.

"While homicides remain relatively rare events they have been steadily increasing in the province over the years," Mike Farnworth, public safety minister and solicitor general, said at a news conference on Thursday. "The impacts that these events have on communities are significant and are felt well beyond victims and their families."

Recently, residents of the suburban Vancouver community of White Rock were awakened by multiple gunshots being fired at a vehicle, while downtown Vancouver shoppers witnessed gunmen firing at occupants of a blocked vehicle.

Police said both incidents were targeted shootings, as were shoot outs at Vancouver International Airport and community parks in Surrey.

"This is a problem that crosses borders within Canada and around the world, and we're determined to do what it takes to stop it," said Farnworth. "Any type of violence that endangers people is unacceptable and all British Columbians deserve to feel safe from gang violence."

He said a new Integrated Gang Homicide Team will investigate gang-connected murders.

The 18-member team is expected to be in full operation by late this year or early 2025, Farnworth said.

Members of the gang homicide unit will become part of the Lower Mainland's RCMP-led Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, but will focus on gang cases, he said.

"The (team) will bring together experts in homicide investigations, gang enforcement, and capitalize on their knowledge and a formal structure," Farnworth said. "This specialized unit will be at the forefront of tackling key gang-related homicides and advancing intelligence sharing on gang operations throughout the Lower Mainland."

Supt. Mandeep Mooker, the officer in charge of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said gang-related killings are often more time consuming to investigate due to planning by the gangs, witness reluctance and evidence tampering.

He said many homicides are spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment situations, but the gang-related murders "are planned homicides that are occurring. So, it takes a lot of time and it usually has a lot of individuals involved. And the big piece for us right now, with recent case law and legislation, is the disclosure process for these complex files."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

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