BAND-AID PLAN WILL DO LITTLE TO STOP THE CARNAGE
Premier Gordon Campbell's hastily cobbled together plan for tackling criminal gangs in B.C. is a Band-Aid instead of much-needed public policy surgery.
The addition of 10 new prosecutors and 168 new police officers over the next two years will do little to stem the gun violence linked to the illegal drug trade or cripple the criminal organizations behind it.
Of course, more police and more prosecutors should help, but the increases announced barely keep pace with the growth of the gang menace.
And for all the rhetoric, a special 10-member police unit dedicated to seizing illegal firearms is baloney -- every police officer should be dedicated to that task!
After a spree of assassination attempts across the Lower Mainland, the initiatives announced with much fanfare Friday at best will take pressure off the Liberal administration in its run-up to May's election.
But it is not good enough.
In their first term, the Liberals crowed about targeting the top leaders of organized criminal gangs and vowed to tackle the rise of Indo-Canadian crime groups.
We still have not seen the conviction of even a single major gang leader in this province and Indo-Canadian groups continue to be among the most active of organized criminals. We apparently have more than 125 different gangs today where once we had outlaw bikers and the traditional Mob.
By any measure, the situation has worsened.
Yet Campbell and his colleagues claim this latest makeshift strategy will work. I am more than skeptical; I'm incredulous.
Premier Campbell, Attorney-General Wally Oppal and Solicitor-General John van Dongen obviously think they can distract us with more talk and promises.
In Quebec a decade ago, the province targeted the bikers, jailed the leader of the Hells Angels and dozens of others. Last week, hundreds of police were again dispatched to round up dozens of gangsters.
That's real action.
What do we get? A damage-control press conference and a great wringing of hands about the need for changes to the Criminal Code and other federal legislation.
Instead of announcing arrests, our politicians trumpet plans for a junket to Ottawa to discuss amendments to the Criminal Code. Good grief.
Criminal law changes, amendments to the wiretap legislation or new bail rules would certainly make life easier for law-enforcement, but as provinces on the other side of the Rockies have shown, they are not essential to stopping violence in our communities.
Rather, we need politicians who will quit passing the buck, cops to do their job, prosecutors to back them up and judges to hand down stiff sentences for gang crimes -- all of which requires no legislative changes. Remember the Mafia?
That's what's wrong with the discussion about organized crime in this province -- it's dishonest.
The Mounties don't report to Victoria so we can't fire the guys who run E Division for failing miserably to catch the Air India bombers, stop Robert Pickton, curb Indo-Canadian crime gangs or corral the Hells Angels. Heck, the attorney-general couldn't even get answers out of them after the Tasering of Robert Dziekanski.
In spite of these abject failures, no Mountie has been canned. Instead, our politicians and the RCMP whine about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and disclosure rules.
What is missing is not special laws, it's political will, law-enforcement accountability and candour about the roots of this problem.
The truth is we have a dysfunctional policing regime in B.C. and we are all paying the price. But we are not seriously having that discussion.
I think there are two keys to solving our gang problem -- one is the legalization of the illicit drugs that fuel organized crime and the other is for Victoria to re-assume control of policing in the province.
The Liberals, however, have no appetite for either.
As a result, we have a Band-Aid solution -- one that will perhaps keep public anger from boiling over until after the provincial election but that will do nothing to truly eradicate gangs or staunch the carnage.
Copyright: 2009 The Vancouver Sun