SPECIAL GANG REPORT: Saturday night on the streets

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit takes to the streets to counteract violent gang incidents.

  • May. 15, 2013 11:00 a.m.
Constables Ryan Miller and Mike Clark question a potential gang associate while on patrol in the Granville entertainment district. Their aim is to ensure the bars and restaurants around the province are safe to visit.

Constables Ryan Miller and Mike Clark question a potential gang associate while on patrol in the Granville entertainment district. Their aim is to ensure the bars and restaurants around the province are safe to visit.

Six members of the Uniform Gang Enforcement team wind their way through the crowded downtown street. The gang enforcement teams, in their distinctive dark uniforms, are the high-profile public face of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CFSEU-BC)  – the province’s anti-gang police unit.

The uniform gang enforcement team had its genesis in 2007 to counteract a growing number of violent gang incidents throughout the Lower Mainland. Bullets were flying, public safety was at risk and something had to be done.

Formerly called the Violence Suppression Team (VST) and initially based out of the Vancouver Police Department, the integrated patrol-based model quickly became a success.

The rate of violent incidents in public places began to drop, the bars and restaurants got onboard and it’s been a key component of the guns and gangs strategy ever since.

On average, CFSEU-BC’s uniformed officers will check about 4,000 people in a year. About 12 per cent of those checks will result in the removal of individuals from a premise at the request of a property owner or for some other Criminal Code offence.

Of all the people checked in a year, 6.4 per cent will result in an arrest.

In addition to regular patrols around Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, the gang enforcement team will travel to communities around British Columbia to assist municipal departments and detachments with their gang suppression efforts.

“Our foremost concern is to protect the public from gang violence,” explains Sergeant Mark Jordan, who has led one of CFSEU-BC’s uniform teams for the last four years.  They deal with situations that most people would rightly run from as they often interact with high-risk individuals who think nothing of carrying guns and knives into public places.

Sgt. Jordan’s hometown is Abbotsford, once dubbed as the murder capital of Canada and home to the notorious Bacon Brothers.

“I have four kids and during that time I told them they couldn’t go out to the malls or the movie theatres,” he says, adding it was a challenging time for his city. But, that’s all changed now thanks to an aggressive provincial anti-gang strategy led by CFSEU-BC and an equally aggressive and homegrown strategy led by Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich.

Sgt. Jordan’s experiences in his hometown are part of the reason he is so passionate about the public safety work he does at CFSEU-BC.

“These are violent people who pose a significant risk to public safety.”

He adds that officers don’t remove just anyone from an establishment. “There has to be some component of recent violence in their backgrounds,” he says.

Later that evening, the officers begin a tour of the clubs and restaurants around Vancouver’s hotspots. They spot a known associate on the dance floor who is oblivious to the scrutiny coming from the officers. Wearing flashy white-framed glasses, memorable white leather shoes, expensive jeans, a tailored shirt, and big jewelry – he isn’t hard to miss. Constable Mike Clark asks him to hand over his driver’s licence and the information is punched into a portable laptop computer linked to a police database. They get a hit. It turns out the man’s son is a greater threat to public safety than the dad, so he’s allowed back inside the club this time.

It’s nearly 2 a.m. and the night is winding down. The team members return to the office where they will do another couple of hours of paperwork before the shift ends.

Tomorrow night they will be back on the streets to do it all over again. They can’t wait.

UNIFORM TEAMS BY THE NUMBERS (2012)

Persons checked : 3,916

Vehicles checked: 1,630

Bar removals: 505

Arrests : 258

Charges : 149

Patrol calls covered:  717

Curfew checks: 145