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Abbotsford Police gang unit one year old: 'Disruptions' an important tactic

The first arrest involving Abbotsford’s gang suppression unit, in partnership with the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team, took place in April 2010 and resulted in drug and weapon charges which were later stayed. - John Van Putten
The first arrest involving Abbotsford’s gang suppression unit, in partnership with the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team, took place in April 2010 and resulted in drug and weapon charges which were later stayed.
— image credit: John Van Putten

Abbotsford Police say they are pleased with a new tactic they have used to alleviate gang-related violence and murders in the community.

The gang suppression unit (GSU), which formed a year ago, has been deemed a success, said Const. Ian MacDonald.

He said one only has to look at some prominent statistics that plagued Abbotsford in the two years prior to the GSU. The community was dubbed the “murder capital of Canada” in 2009 and 2010, based on having had six homicides in 2008 and 11 the following year.

The 14-member GSU formed in April 2010, and there were four murders last year and none so far this year. MacDonald said although the GSU can’t take full credit for the reduction, their role in halting gang activity has played a big part.

Year-end stats released recently by the APD show that a total of 183 gangsters and associates were identified in the community in 2010, and the GSU recorded 36 “disruptions.”

As of April 23 this year, there were 142 listed subjects and 20 documented disruptions.

MacDonald said disruptions are defined as police putting a halt to a criminal activity – such as a grow rip or abduction of a rival gang member – that they have received a tip about or come across themselves.

These tips often come from gangsters.

“This notion of loyalty within gangs is a total myth ... It’s everybody for themselves. If there’s money to be made or skin to be saved, people will act out of self-interest,” MacDonald said.

An example of a disruption occurred in February when the GSU was involved with other officers in executing a search warrant at an apartment in the 32700 block of George Ferguson Way.

The search of the suite turned up crack cocaine, heroin, cellphones and cash. A 20-year-old woman was arrested in the building, while a 25-year-old man, formerly connected to the Duhre Group (described as the prominent gang in Abbotsford), was apprehended in the underground parking lot.

Police discovered he had been on his way to meet with colleagues who had gathered in the parking lot of the apartment building and at a gas station across the street.

It was believed they were gathering to take action against a rival group, MacDonald said. Police intervened, and no incidents took place.

“What if that day, we hadn’t executed that warrant? Maybe there would have been an abduction. Maybe there would have been a grow rip,” MacDonald said.

He said just the fact that gang members know they are being watched has helped curb criminal activity, but there is more work to be done.

Police are now considering adopting a formal process in which local citizens can provide tips directly to the GSU. Currently, they have to go through other channels, such as Crime Stoppers, before the information makes its way to the unit and, by then, it can be too late.

“Sometimes, time is of the essence,” MacDonald said.

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