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VicPD arrest alleged gangster seen selling vapes to students near 3 schools

Hundreds of vapes, imitation firearms seized from allegedly gang-affiliated suspect

Victoria’s police chief faced questions Monday (March 4) on why it took at least a month for the public to hear about the arrest of an allegedly gang-connected man seen around students.

On Feb. 26, Chief Del Manak told the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) board that VicPD arrested an individual in January who was suspected of recruiting youth across from a number of schools. The news coincided with the chief calling on the school board’s trustees to revive the School Police Liaison Officer (SPLO) program.

The January arrest came after officers witnessed the allegedly gang-affiliated man selling vape products to students near school property, police said Monday. The man was seen selling to youth across from Esquimalt High School and Reynolds Secondary School, VicPD said, adding he was also seen on North Saanich Middle School’s property after school hours.

Four imitation firearms, three knives, 859 nicotine vapes, almost 500 THC vapes and 1.6 kilograms of dried cannabis were seized in relation to the arrest.

At a Monday press conference, Manak wouldn’t say what day the man was arrested on and didn’t know whether he’d been charged. But the chief said the incident points to the “unprecedented” increase in gang activity and recruitment efforts police are seeing around Greater Victoria schools.

Asked why then the public didn’t hear about the arrest until his comments to the school board, Manak said he’s been letting the board know that they’re seeing gang activity in and around schools.

When pressed if he could confirm the district was made aware of the January incident prior to his Feb. 26 address, Manak said it’s something officers speak with schools about on a regular basis.


Victoria police claim individuals allegedly tied to larger B.C. gangs are getting local youth to sell vape products and are aiming to create a scenario where the students accrue debt that parents must then pay off. Manak called it an “escalating” trend, but would only say parents have reached out to him about the issue when he was called on to say how recently such an incident occurred.

Asked again for data backing up the force’s claims about gang activity involving schools, Manak said data is difficult to obtain because parents are under-reporting incidents, or not reporting them at all.

“I think that we have to be careful about not just relying on the data but also the lived experience of students,” he said.

VicPD said it will continue to build evidence against the alleged targeting of youth by gangs. Since officers were watching the purported encounters, Manak was asked when officers would step in. He said officers are monitoring the situation and would move in to restore safety if they saw something extremely unsafe, like someone waving a handgun.

He was then pressed on whether that explanation would satisfy a parent who learned officers watched their child get approached by suspected gang affiliates.

“Again these are the discussions we’re having with parents around gang prevention,” the chief said, noting laying charges requires gathering evidence. “In the right circumstances, that is what we’re going to do to hold these gang associates … accountable.”

Premier David Eby on Monday said reports of such activity could heighten parent anxiety and ensuring police can access schools is a key part of anti-gang efforts. But he added that access will look different in each community and the province looks to democratically elected school boards to set those parameters.

“I certainly support school boards making good decisions around ensuring their schools are safe for all kids, which includes access for police to investigate crimes or that young people may be recruited into gangs,” Eby said when asked where he stands on police liaison officers.

The SD61 police liaison program was shuttered in 2023, while VicPD hasn’t operated its liaison program since 2018 – when the department redeployed those officers to patrol and a unit responding to phone calls. Until last year’s board decision, Manak said police had still been attending schools on occasion.

The school district still allows police to attend schools for emergencies, criminal investigations and lockdowns.

In 2022, B.C.’s human rights commissioner recommended ending the school officer programs until their impact could be established empirically. The recommendation called on school boards wanting to keep the programs in place to provide independent evidence of the need for service offered by police that civilian alternatives couldn’t provide.

READ: Increased gang activity brings call for police in Greater Victoria schools

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