The number of organized crime groups in B.C. grew for the third year in a row in 2006 — to 124, up from 108 identified the previous year, says a 2006 RCMP report obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

The 2006 Integrated Threat Assessment on Organized Crime says that police successfully disbanded 19 of the groups operating in 2005, but another 35 organized crime groups started up. “The increase was also manifested in the number of mid-to-low-level criminal organizations identified, the growth in which accounted for nearly all the annual change overall,” the report says.

The graph in the report looks alarming, starting in 2003 with just 52 groups and rising in each of the last three years. But the report also says better record-keeping and analysis of crime groups accounts for some of the increase. In terms of successes, five crime groups were disrupted last year through “successful enforcement.” Ten groups disbanded or disappeared from police radar and are no longer considered a criminal threat. The rest were rolled into larger crime groups, the report says. “An additional ten groups saw a decline in assessed threat due to enforcement actions against the group or its associates,” the report says. “Thus law enforcement actions yielded positive results in terms of disruption against 15 of 108 organized crime groups — that is 14 per cent — over the past year.”

And as last year, independent crime groups and outlaw motorcycle gangs — particularly the Hells Angels — are at the top of the pack in terms of sophistication and criminal involvement. “The remaining profile of organized crime in the province is comprised of Asian-based organized crime, Indo-Canadian organized crime, Eastern European and various other smaller categories.”
Most of the new groups formed were trying to cash in on the lucrative drug trade, particularly marijuana and crystal meth.
“In light of the continuing trend in synthetic drug production and trafficking and as regards to the well-known situation regarding marijuana cultivation, it is not surprising that the typical core activity of the independent and OMG-associated criminal organizations newly added in 2006 is that of drug-trafficking and drug production, with most of these groups scoring in the middle range of known criminal organizations in the province,” the report says.

Whole sections of the 400-plus page document were blanked out for security reasons. Of the so-called independent groups, a number of them work in concert with biker gangs, the report says, while others are “truly independent.” The researchers noted that pot cultivation appears to have plateaued, “remaining comfortably the biggest single criminal revenue generator in B.C./Yukon and a sizeable industry in the region in its own right. Reported grow operations are levelling off, but the average number of plants is consistently increasing,” the report says. “Methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs continue to expand as an enforcement challenge and a social problem.”

Vancouver Sun 17 March 2007