Lower Mainland police reassure public after series of shootings, ‘evolution’ in violent crime

Click to play video: 'Police claiming success in combatting gang-related violence'
Police claiming success in combatting gang-related violence
Despite a string of recent shootings, police in Metro Vancouver say their efforts to target and suppress gang-related violence have led to a recent decrease in gang shootings. Kamil Karamali reports – Jan 20, 2022

Police detachments and units in B.C.’s Lower Mainland are reassuring the public of their dedication and efforts to reduce gun violence in the aftermath of recent shootings in Langley, Coquitlam and Surrey.

In a Thursday press conference, Chief Supt. Ghalib Bhayani said the number of violent crimes has decreased since spring and summer of 2021, with several “known targets” arrested, but added that street crime in the Lower Mainland is changing.

“Unfortunately, what we are experiencing now is an evolution in that we are seeing street-level criminals engaged in interpersonal conflict, creating violence on our streets,” said the operations officer for the Lower Mainland District RCMP.

“The policing community is acutely aware that these acts of violence impact the public sense of safety and wellbeing. This is absolutely unacceptable.”

Read more: 96 charges, 54 arrests made with help from 4,741 tips to Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers in 2021

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On Jan. 7, a shooting in Langley killed an 18-year-old who was known to police, and a bystander was hospitalized after being struck by a bullet.

Another man was seriously injured in a shooting outside a Coquitlam pub on Jan. 14, and two bystanders were treated for minor wounds caused by debris from the shooting.

On Wednesday, a man and woman sustained non-life-threatening injuries in a shooting at a warming centre in Whalley, a neighbourhood in Surrey.

While investigations are ongoing in all three incidents, Supt. Duncan Pound of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. said all of them “initially appear connected to street-level drug trafficking.”

“They do not, at this time, appear to have any direct links to the Lower Mainland gang conflict and do not appear to be connected to each other,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Two people hurt in shooting at Surrey warming centre'
Two people hurt in shooting at Surrey warming centre

Last year, as a result of increased violence, police forces — including 13 RCMP detachments and five integrated teams that deliver frontline policing in the Lower Mainland — increased their targeted enforcement, patrols and information-sharing.

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Since April, many detachments and municipalities introduced or expanded anti-gang initiatives, and Pound said co-ordination on anti-gang violence is probably “the highest level it’s been in many years.”

“The aspect that really deters street-level and organized criminal figures is, nothing is more discouraging to them than when the police are working together,” he explained.

“Criminals don’t respect the municipal boundaries, they don’t respect provincial boundaries. So if the police were to stay within their own backyard, that gives them greater opportunity to exploit opportunities around the Lower Mainland.”

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Bhayani encouraged concerned parents to spend time with their children, get to know their friends and their friends’ parents, as many of these criminal activities involve “very young men.”

“Parents need to know who they’re with, what they’re doing, what’s happening after school … I really encourage families out there to spend more time with their kids.”

Anyone in need of support leaving a gang is encouraged to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C’s gang intervention and exiting team at 604- 897-6023.

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