News

Gang busters: Tackling gang violence in Abbotsford

The formation of a gang suppression unit in the Abbotsford Police Department was one measure taken to combat gang violence in the community. - File photo
The formation of a gang suppression unit in the Abbotsford Police Department was one measure taken to combat gang violence in the community.
— image credit: File photo

Bob Rich began working as an officer in an era when it was believed that police could not effect change.

Crime was viewed as an outcome of socio-economic issues such as family dysfunction, illiteracy and substance abuse, and police merely reacted to those situations.

But Rich related to the philosophies of former New York police commissioner William Bratton, and others, who believed crime, in many cases, could be prevented.

Rich, the chief of the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) since 2008, credits his staff with embracing strategies that are often viewed as unconventional.

There is, perhaps, no more evidence of their success than in the community’s gang-related crimes, which reached a peak in 2008-09, but have since dropped dramatically.

Rich will speak about this issue during a presentation on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Rotary Peace Forum in Richmond. His topic is “Combating Gang Violence.”

Gang-related murders and violence saw the city dubbed “the murder capital of Canada” as rival groups – such as the Red Scorpions and the UN Gang – battled for control of the drug trade.

By 2011, the rate of violent crime in Abbotsford had dropped 26 per cent and the city had shed its “murder capital” title.

Rich said the APD tackled the gang problem with a comprehensive plan that included forming the gang suppression unit, releasing the names of high-profile groups such as the Bacons and the Duhres, and installing video surveillance in neighborhoods occupied by gangsters.

“One aspect of this is you lift up the rock and say, ‘Look what’s here, people.’ Criminals do not like the light,” Rich said.

A public awareness campaign included a series of posters, videos and presentations aimed at steering kids away from the gang lifestyle.

Some of the initiatives incurred criticism – for example, a Christmas card sent to criminals in December that depicted Rich dressed as Santa Claus in tactical gear and toting an assault rifle.

The idea was to encourage the recipients to consider a different lifestyle, with a phone number provided if they wanted support.

Rich acknowledges that such strategies can be risky, but they have to be edgy to have an impact.

“If you’re going to do something like that, you’re not going to send them (criminals) a picture of a Christmas tree.”

Rich acknowledges that although the gang problem has dissipated, it’s still an issue.

“We’re not out of the woods yet. There could still be a murder or serious violence out there.”

He said the names and types of gangs currently operating in the city aren’t as clear as they once were. There is much more business being conducted between groups, and it’s more difficult to pinpoint who’s working with whom.

But one thing is clear.

“Our goal is to always be chipping away and making our community safer.”

 

 

 

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...

House fire on Jasper Court deemed possible arson
 
Election 2014: Banman changes mind on mayoral meeting no-show
 
Police say large election signs might have been factor in pedestrian collision
Fog, navigation methods blamed for container ship grounding in Fraser River
 
Coast Salish tribes gather for water ceremony before NEB hearings
 
Municipal election reform pledged for 2014 campaign
Township news, direct from the source
 
Police hoping to find rightful owners
 
Car crashes into Original Applewood Motors showroom in Langley

Community Events, October 2014

Add an Event

Read the latest eEdition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Oct 24 edition online now. Browse the archives.