The Abbotsford Police Department’s gang suppression unit (GSU) is at a “heightened awareness” about criminal activity in the community following the Kelowna shooting that killed Jonathan Bacon, 30, and injured four others.
Sgt. Casey Vinet said the potential for retaliation is of concern in Abbotsford, and across the province, although there is no reason to believe this community is specifically at risk.
“Having said that, we are well aware that violence can occur anywhere, anytime,” he said.
Vinet said the APD has been speaking with its partner agencies, including the Lower Mainland’s Integrated Gang Task Force, on current gang activity and the movement of criminals.
None of the victims of Sunday’s shooting outside the Delta Grand Hotel currently resides in Abbotsford, but Bacon grew up in the community and lived here until moving to Port Moody in 2009. Police have not revealed where he had been living just prior to his death, but have said it was not in Abbotsford.
Also with Bacon in the targeted Porsche Cayenne were Larry Amero of the White Rock Hells Angels, and Independent Soldier James Riach, according to media reports. Amero is recovering in hospital, while Riach fled the scene.
Two unidentified women were also injured.
Vinet said he could not reveal any specifics about the current gang situation in Abbotsford, only that the same groups identified in the past continue to be active.
Higher profile drug arrests by the GSU in the last year have mainly consisted of members of the Duhre Group and the UN Gang.
Although police have not determined, or will not say, which group is responsible for Sunday’s shooting, speculation is high that either, or both, of those organizations could be behind the targeted hit.
Meanwhile, Darryl Plecas, a criminology expert at University of the Fraser Valley, predicts that retaliation will be not be as quick as most people believe, due to intense police scrutiny in the aftermath of the Kelowna shooting.
He also believes that “this outrageous display of violence” does not signal a return to the same level that occurred in the Lower Mainland in 2009, when gang shootings and murders were rampant.
Since then, police have improved their ability to gather information and head off potential issues before they occur. In Abbotsford, for example, the 14-member GSU formed in spring 2010. By the end of the year, the unit had compiled a list of 183 gang members and associates active in the community, and staged 36 “disruptions” of gang activities such as grow rips and abductions.
Plecas said the Kelowna shooting is not a sign that police are doing a poor job.
“They are making incredible inroads, but they’re still playing catch-up, if you will … They don’t have enough resources to be on top of every gang that’s out there, but that will happen.”
Police have said Bacon and his two brothers – Jamie, 26, and Jarrod, 28 – were associated with the Red Scorpion gang, which engaged in warfare on Lower Mainland streets with rival the UN Gang over control of the drug trade in 2008-09.
On Tuesday afternoon, Kelowna RCMP released a photo of the silver/green Ford Explorer that the shooter (or shooters) was suspected to be driving at the time of the hit.
Anyone who observed the vehicle during the weekend of Aug. 12-14 is asked to call the Kelowna detachment at 250-762-3300 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-5477 with details.
Abbotsford was dubbed the “Murder capital of Canada” for the number of homicides that occurred in the city in 2008 and 2009, but police have said an increased focus on tackling gang violence is responsible for reducing those numbers.
There were six murders in Abbotsford in 2008 and 11 the following year, compared to four in 2010 and none so far this year.
Also down are the number of shootings and violent assaults. The latest Stats Canada figures, released last month, showed that Abbotsford had recorded a 26 per cent drop in violent crime from 2009 to 2010.
Although there have been no homicides this year, there have been four targeted shootings:
– Jan. 4, eight to 12 shots were fired at a home at 2504 Bradner Rd., narrowly missing a 25-year-old woman who had pulled into the driveway.
– Feb. 20, 10 shots were fired at a home on Hope Road, where a family with no criminal background lived. A man who police believe was affiliated with the Duhre Group was the intended target but lived in a different house on the same street.
– March 11, there was a drive-by shooting in a home in the 32900 block of Gatefield Avenue which was occupied by two young children and four adults.
– June 9, eight to 12 shots were fired at a home on Monteray Place which was owned by the parents of Shafa Aram, who served a four-year manslaughter sentence for a 2003 shooting death.