As part of our day long special Surrey: What’s at Stake, producers John O’Dowd and Tim Dickert were taken on a ride-along with The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, which is the province’s anti-gang agency.
Constable Jordan McLellan met with them at the CFSEU headquarters in Surrey.
“Our mandate at the CFSEU is to target, investigate and prosecute the organized crime groups or individuals that pose the greatest to the people of British Columbia.”
The force is British Columbia’s “integrated anti-gang police agency”, and the largest integrated police program in Canada made up of members from every police department in B.C., including the RCMP.
“We also have contacts within CBSA, they have an intelligence section. We have contacts within the DEA, the FBI, Homeland Security. Because our investigations are not only provincial, not only national, but international as well, you can’t operate without having some international partnerships.”
Kids getting stuck in gang life
Constable McLelland also speaks in schools and he says it’s not the good kids who are paying the most attention when he tells the stories of what can happen to kids who get involved as Dial-a-Dope runners, which is the lowest rung on the gang ladder.
“The kids who are the most involved and have the most to lose are the ones who are paying attention the most. You see it in their faces, they literally don’t even blink sometimes. And you’ll get a heads up from their teachers, ‘yeah that group back there, they’ve got their own little gang.'”
He says the kids who act as runners are the most vulnerable.
“Dial-a-dopers are the front line worker bees of gangs. They’re the people who are always visible, they’re the ones who are driving around, they’re the ones who are making your money, your bottom line for selling drugs.”
He says that makes them the most vulnerable to getting shot at, stabbed, and robbed. Worse still, is they often get robbed by their own bosses.
“And then all of a sudden that kid now owes you a thousand bucks. And that way you can own that kid because he’s continuously in debt to you, and you can make them do really whatever you want them to do. And that tactic is still very much employed today.”
But the greatest risk is death
McLelland tells high school students about a couple of Abbotsford teens who wanted to save up enough money to get a limousine to take to grad so they got involved in running a Dial-a-Dope line for the Red Scorpions.
A month into it they were killed by a rival gang.
“…they get kidnapped at gunpoint in a park while they’re just hanging with their friends, and they were taken up to Sumas Mountain and they were executed.”
And he says it happens all the time.
“People get hurt all the time, and people get killed all the time.”
Gangster girlfriends: a deadly romance
“Long gone are the days where you’re just the pretty arm candy who gets some new shoes and a new purse because your boyfriend’s got a lot of money.
McLelland says gangsters’ girlfriends are targeted all the time.
“They’re targeted for retaliations, for retributions, for robberies, for extortion, for kidnappings – because the other criminal element knows they can’t get to buddy but they can sure get to his girlfriend.”
Young girls and women are at risk of getting killed just because they hang around with criminals.
Casinos: A money laundering paradise
“You can take a little bit of money in the casino and come out with a cheque from the BCLC and it’s completely clean money.”
And while there are protections in place to stop people from doing that, when someone buys $100K in chips, makes $20K and then cashes all their chips in, it’s completely clean money.
Gang and criminal activity: Not just Surrey
The gang landscape is fluid all the time, and in Constable McLelland’s experience, it’s not firm territory like, for example, the Bloods and the Crips in the states.
“In British Columbia and in my experience, I haven’t seen it like that. It’s really just the people who are active at the time, where they’re living, or wherever their home base is. That’s where you’re going to see the spike of shootings or drug sales.”
But, says McLelland, once that person or group moves, goes to jail, or even gets killed – the activity shifts.
“Illegal means like cell phone jammers, radar jammers in their cars. In gang enforcement we came across a number of really well designed and really well put together secret compartments in cars.”
McLelland says there are even companies and auto shops that specialize in hydraulic secret compartments.
“If I could relate any message to your listeners? The things that you don’t think are happening – are totally happening. These things do happen, people are caught with guns, people are robbed, people are kidnapped and beaten up and all that other stuff. It happens all the time. Whether you hear about it is if it makes the news or not.”