The most prosperous gangs aren’t flashy or living an obvious high life.
They’re smart and secretive, and most likely involved in the organized drug trade.
And they could be your next door neighbour, but you’d never know it, says a Greater Trail Mountie.
RCMP Cpl. Darryl Orr, commanding officer for the Trail and Castlegar Crime Reduction Units (CRU), has the opinion that gangs and organized crime have been in the area for quite some time though he doesn’t have recent hard evidence to prove it.
Drug activity in the region has remained fairly constant in the last few years, Orr maintained, but acknowledged that there’s people in the Trail area with ties to the Hells Angels and other organized groups, so they can facilitate transactions to bring narcotics into the Kootenays.
Crime groups, including gangs, distribute drugs for profit, he said, so they often are found in the bigger cities because bigger profits lie in a larger population.
“Wherever there’s big fish there will be little fish who want a little piece of that,” continued Orr. “In Trail and Castlegar you’ll have offshoots of that activity, but it’s just not to a scale big enough to be noticed by law enforcement.”
He recalled the high level case from about nine years ago, when the Greater Trail police force busted a sophisticated marijuana grow op in city limits.
“This particular group was very smart,” he said. “They didn’t talk to a lot of people and it took a lot of hard work to get into the search warrant situation.”
He said the group used high end filtration to mask the odour of the marijuana and keep it from permeating outside the private residences, and they knew how to bypass hydropower so it wouldn’t look like they were consuming excess power.
“They used a lot of anti-police methods,” Orr said. “All that stuff is controlled by supply and demand and we are certain anywhere you go there’ll be people with ties to organized crime.
“I think the public would be surprised about the number of people who make money illegally.”
Locally, the Kootenay Boundary Regional General Investigation Section (GIS) is a 10-person plainclothes unit that focuses on street crime and undercover operations.
Five of those positions are full time with wages paid by provincial money, while the other five are municipally funded in an affiliated branch called the crime reduction unit, explained Orr.
Bigger centres such as Kelowna, have units specifically designed to fight gang-related activity he noted, and mentioned a large takedown of the Hells Angels in that city a few years ago.
“That’s only three hours away,” Orr said. “So to think we are immune to to the reaches of those kind of things is just naive, cause we’re not.”
The West Kootenay region does see spikes in the drug trade when a large influx of workers are brought to the area for temporary work assignments.
“It’s supply and demand depending on the population,” he continued. “If you bring in, for example, 500 workers for a project and they are staying in Trail, that’s demand. You’ll have people that want it. So instead of two pounds he now wants ten, and if they can sell it, they’ll find a way to get it in.”
But it’s not just drug activity that is tied to gangs and organized crime locally or elsewhere in the province.
Online gambling, money laundering, white collar crimes like fraud and bank scams, are also part of the lure to easy money.
“I have received information about that illegal kind of stuff in the past,” said Orr. “There’s businesses out there, that people think are completely legitimate, when in fact it’s completely financed by illegitimate money.”
Orr encourages anyone in the community to report suspicious activity, because often people stay quiet when indications of crime aren’t obvious.
“We are in the business of looking for crimes that stand out and get called in,” said Orr. “We aren’t necessarily looking for illegitimate businesses during the day because they don’t stand out or cause a lot of attention.”