Task force tackles Island hot spots in search of gang members

Katie Derosa (Times Colonist) | July 10, 2011

It’s 10: 33 p.m. Saturday night of the Canada Day long weekend in downtown Victoria, and eight cops from the Integrated Gang Task Force and two Victoria police officers march single file into Monty’s Showroom Pub, wearing bulletproof vests and packing sidearms.

At the rear of the line of blue is Sgt. Keiron McConnell, whose fridge-like, sixfoot-five frame eclipses the doorway as he walks past a woman collecting cover charges.

A row of 20-something guys wearing polo shirts forget the topless stripper rolling around on stage and their chins trace the shape of an arch, mouths agape and eyes wide as they watch McConnell walk by, the task force’s name emblazoned on the back of his vest.

The uniform section of the Vancouverbased task force is hard to miss as they complete the first of several bar checks on this busy night in downtown Victoria.

And that’s exactly what they want.

“People ask, ‘why so many cops?’ It’s about making our presence known,” says Sgt. Shinder Kirk, the task force’s spokesman.

It sends the message that criminals from the Lower Mainland are still on the radar of the gang task force, even as they vacation or set down roots in Victoria.

During their yearly visit to Victoria, task force members spent Canada Day long weekend in the downtown core, hopping from bar to bar and doing vehicle stops, looking for people from the Lower Mainland with links to organized crime and gathering intelligence on their potential associates.

“There’s definitely people here that we interacted with [on Canada Day] who are a concern to us,” McConnell says. “They could be here to simply have fun like everyone else or they could be here to be involved in criminal activity. Regardless of why they’re here, their presence alone is something we need to be on top of.”

Victoria police also share intelligence with the task force, pointing out highlevel criminals living on the Island.

Compared to the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island has been insulated from violent gang activity because of geography; if you’re trying to flee the authorities, you have to take either a boat or plane to get off the Island.

Read more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/Task+force+tackles+Island+spots+search+gang+members/5080211/story.html#ixzz1Rp6SLrIv

Photo credit: Adrian Lam Times Colonist, Times Colonist

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