There is “zero chance” that any criminal group in the Lower Mainland will be as dominant as the Red Scorpions and UN Gang were at their peak, according to a local criminology expert.
Daryl Plecas, of the school of criminology and criminal justice at University of the Fraser Valley, commented on the issue following Monday’s announcement of new charges against several UN Gang members.
These charges, and numerous prior counts, have spelled the downfall of the Red Scorpions (RS) and UN, with several high-profile members now behind bars.
This has left a gap in the drug trade that others are scrambling to fill, but Plecas said he is confident the public will not see the same level of violence as in 2009. That year, gunfire erupted throughout the Lower Mainland and several murders were recorded – 11 in Abbotsford alone, with eight being linked to drugs or organized crime.
“There will be no chance that it will ever get back to where it was,” Plecas said.
Police launched a “very focused assault” on gang members, and have continued to develop strategies to combat the problem, he said. In Abbotsford, this included the formation of the gang suppression task force in April 2010.
As well, the new groups forming do not have tight allegiances. Gone are the days when brotherhood and loyalty were the cornerstones of gang membership.
Plecas said police now have no shortage of informants waiting to rat out their buddies.
“They (police) box these guys into a corner. They box one in, and they all start falling like dominoes,” Plecas said.
Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald concurred, referencing gangs such as the Duhre Group – said to be the current dominant gang in Abbotsford. While many members of the Scorpions and UN had long-standing histories together, the new groups consist of just about anyone who is willing to do the work.
And their allegiance is not necessarily long-lasting.
“How loyal can you expect your group to be when you will work for any master if there’s money to be made?” MacDonald said.
He said this has created a challenge for police, as they try to determine who’s aligning with whom. He said it appears that many – including former Scorpion and UN members – appear to be biding their time, waiting to see whose roster they want to join.
The Abbotsford Police attracted much attention last year for the formation of its “top 10 gangster” list, which they soon expanded to 25. As more names came to their attention, police were astonished to see the list tally 180 individuals.
These are people who are “plying their trade” in the community, whether they reside in Abbotsford or elsewhere. Some have involvement with gangs such as the Duhre Group, the Empire Gang and the Independent Soldiers, but most have a question mark beside their name, MacDonald said.
“We know what their last allegiance was … but we don’t know where it is right now.”
He said this uncertainty makes the state of gangs in the community unpredictable, with no guarantees of what the future holds.
“One of the mistakes we’ve made in the past is underestimating how much money could be made in the drug trade … The last thing we want to do is fall victim to that again.”
Sgt. Shinder Kirk, spokesperson for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, said the gang situation in Abbotsford is similar to what is happening throughout the province.
“It’s still somewhat very dynamic and fluid …. They form and split apart on a frequent basis.”
He said it is estimated that about 130 “readily identifiable criminal co-operatives” exist across the province, but the number of gang associates is more difficult to measure.
Kirk said the Lower Mainland is not likely to see the same level of violence that occurred in 2009.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’ve seen the worst, but we’re not so naive to think that we’ve eliminated the potential for violence and for those gangs to form,” he said.
On Monday, the regional Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) announced charges against several UN Gang members, including two for the February 2009 murder of Kevin LeClair of Abbotsford, who was killed in a hail of gunfire outside a Walnut Grove IGA grocery store.
Charged with his murder are Conor D’Monte, 33, described as the current leader of the UN Gang, and Cory “Frankie” Vallee, 32. Both men are still at large and are wanted on Canada-wide warrants.
The two are also charged with conspiracy to murder the Bacon brothers – Jamie, Jarrod and Jonathon of Abbotsford – and their associates from the rival Red Scorpions gang.
Seven others also fall under the conspiracy charges, and were already in prison. They are: Barzan Tilli-Choli, Dan Russell, Dilun Heng, Karwan Saed, Jon Croitoru, Yong Lee and Soroush Ansari.
IHIT announced that six of those men, along with Vallee, have now been charged with the first-degree murder of Jonathan Barber of Langley, who was killed in May 2008 while driving a Porsche in Burnaby. He was taking the vehicle to have some electronics installed.
At Monday’s press conference, Barber was described as a “complete innocent just doing his job,” who had no idea he was working on a vehicle linked to the Bacons. Shots were also fired at his girlfriend, Vicky King, who was following Barber in a separate vehicle.
Charged with the first-degree murder of Barber and the attempted murder of King are: Tilli-Choli, Russell, Heng, Saed, Kroitoru, Lee and Vallee.
Aram Ali was previously charged with the attempted murder of Bacon associate Fraser Sutherland, as was Tilli-Choli.
The Bacon brothers have had attempts on their lives, as have others linked to them and the Red Scorpions over the years, most significantly in 2009.
– Sept. 21, 2006: Jonathon Bacon is shot several times in the driveway of his family’s east Abbotsford home and is rushed to hospital in critical condition.
– Dec. 31, 2008: Dennis Karbovanec survives a targeted shooting in Mission at an undisclosed location. He was wearing body armour at the time. Karbovanec is now serving a life sentence for three counts of second-degree murder in the Surrey Six slayings.
– Jan. 20, 2009: Numerous shots are fired at Jamie Bacon in broad daylight while he is in his vehicle at the Abbotsford Village Shopping Centre. A black Ford 150 truck is seen fleeing the scene.
– Feb. 6, 2009: Kevin LeClair dies in a hail of gunfire while in his vehicle outside an IGA grocery store in Walnut Grove.
– Feb. 16, 2009: Tyler Willock and Fraser Sutherland survive a targeted shooting outside of the T-Barz show lounge in Surrey.
– March 11, 2009: The Abbotsford home of Sundeep “Sunny” Ahuja is the scene of a drive-by shooting. A Dodge pickup in the driveway is hit several times, and shots also penetrate the garage.
– August/September 2009 – The body of Jessica Illes is found in an Abbotsford basement suite. Days later, the body of her boyfriend, Bobby Digeorgio, is found in a burned-out car in a berry field.
Jamie and Jarrod Bacon are currently in prison. Jamie, who was found guilty of multiple weapons charges last year, awaits trial in the Surrey Six slayings. He is charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Jarrod was acquitted in the weapons trial, but is awaiting trial on drug conspiracy and trafficking charges. He was among five arrested in November 2009, following an undercover sting targeting both the Red Scorpions and the UN Gang.
Jonathon Bacon is out of prison, and is awaiting a Supreme Court of Canada hearing to appeal a decision that ordered a new trial for him and two others after drug and weapons charges were dismissed in provincial court.