VICTORIA – B.C.'s two-year-old "gangs and guns" strategy is working, and the province will continue to do its share to maintain it, Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond says.
Bond issued a statement Tuesday after community leaders questioned whether federal funds for Kelowna's 16-member anti-gang squad would continue beyond this fall. A similar unit was also set up in Prince George after a string of gang-related shootings in B.C., with a three-year commitment shared by the federal and provincial governments.
"Over 200 organized crime and gang members and associates have been arrested and charged with more than 400 serious offences since we brought in the gangs and guns strategy in February 2009," Bond said.
"Since 2008-2009 our government invested B.C.'s full $53.3 million share of the Police Officer Recruitment Fund for additional policing positions dedicated to combating gun, gang and organized crime. I can assure you, the province is committed to the continuing funding of these dedicated resources."
Kelowna was rocked Sunday by a brazen daytime shooting in the driveway of a lakefront hotel. Abbotsford gang leader Jonathan Bacon was killed and a member of the Hells Angels was seriously injured when their Porsche SUV was raked with automatic weapon fire from another vehicle.
Two women in the Porsche were also hit by gunfire, and a fifth occupant, believed to be another drug gang associate, escaped on foot.
Armed gang violence was being reported beyond Metro Vancouver by 2009. At that time, former premier Gordon Campbell announced the Kelowna and Prince George gang and weapon squads, along with $185 million to add 304 more cells to the overcrowded B.C. prison system.
That announcement included 180 spaces at a new Lower Mainland Pre-Trial Centre, which was opposed by Burnaby politicians and moved to an expansion of the existing Surrey Pretrial Centre. It also included 20 more spaces at Prince George Correctional Centre and 104 additional spaces at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge.
Later in 2009, B.C. moved to restrict the sale of body armour to law enforcement members and licensed security guards and private investigators.
Kelowna RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon said in October 2009 that body armour was being used in armed robberies there. Body armour and automatic weapons were becoming popular status symbols for gang members as a way of intimidating rivals, police said.