Tuesday 5 July 2011

Foreseeable gang war

So it appears we have a gang war on our hands. A Montreal-style Rock Machine versus Hells Angels blow-em-up kill fest. This here is big-boy gang fighting, not like the amateur north end drive-by nonsense perpetrated by wanna-be gang bangers wearing hoodies and DC sneekers.

How could this have happened? Well, son, it all started back in February 2006 with something called Project Defense. The Manitoba Integrated Organized Crime Task Force, along with the RCMP, Winnipeg Police Service and Brandon Police Service, conducted raids and arrested 13 people including high-ranking Hells Angel Ian Matthew Grant. To accomplish this task, they paid an informant with a "less-than-savoury background" over half a million dollars. (source)

Then in December of 2007, Defense was followed up by Project Drill, in which there were 18 arrests, made possible by paying an informant $650,000 plus expenses, according to court records. (source)

Despite all these arrests, crime continued to escalate. "Many legal experts believe a subsequent rise in Winnipeg street gang crime over the past two years was triggered by the fall of the Hells Angels and an ongoing battle to fill the void and make lucrative profits from the sale of drugs." wrote Mike McIntyre and Jennifer Pawluk in 2009. Perhaps if we made the void larger that might help ... December 2009 was Project Divide, which netted more arrests than the other two combined: 35. Once again, assistance was obtained by purchasing the services of a "longtime criminal" for "at least $500,000 of tax-free money".

Now, in 2011, after paying criminals over $1,650,000 for their assistance and hundreds of thousands more in court costs and witness protection costs, the Hells Angels have been sufficiently neutered to allow the Rock Machine to make a play for our drug market. Hence the shoot-ups and fire bombings.

This was not unforeseeable. I recall some people predicting this outcome back when Project Divide was carried out. Much like overthrowing a corrupt middle-eastern government, unless you can replace it with something better, you risk, in fact, making things worse.

1) Stop busting the gangs. Let them fight it out and (hopefully) establish a new stable order in the drug underworld.
pros: less violence in the longer term, less money spent on informants, prosecutors and attorneys.
cons: continued violence in the short term, and uninhibited flow of illegal drugs into the community

2) Keep busting the gangs. Follow Projects Defense, Drill and Divide, with Projects Doubtful, Dandelion, Denture Cream, Dampness, Dystopia, etc..
pros: maybe ... just maybe ... the gangs will get the message that Winnipeg is not open for illegal drug business and they will stop trying to infiltrate our city.
cons: but more likely, we will spend millions of dollars and have continued violence on our streets

3) Legalize drugs. A favourite of the Libertarian nut jobs, er, advocates.
pros: easier access to drugs! Wait, I think that's a con. K, forget that. Pros: remove the demand for illegal drugs, thereby permanently neutering the gangs via market forces; Increased tax base with sin taxes on newly legalized drugs.
cons: easier access to drugs. Potential for crippling trade with the U.S.

Tough choices ... What's your favourite option?

also posted/printed in the Winnipeg Free Press


Anonymous said...

The reality is that I can hgo outside of my office and get pot, crack or meth in 5 minutes, drugs are already easy to get.

Don't just legalize then, de-criminalize them, that takes them out of the hands of the gangs. If they are only legalized you will still have a gray market like there is with cigarettes and hence gangs will still be involved.

Anonymous said...

Same anon as above...

In countries where drugs (besides the usual caffine, alcohol and tobacco) have been de-criminalized to some point there has been a reduction in drug related crime and health issues, the evidence is there.




The Great Canadian Talk Show said...

Don't forget that the entree for the RM to Manitoba was through the fledgling Bandidos, and was first reported on by a blog way ahead of MSM over4 years ago


John Dobbin said...

A certain amount of de-criminalization probably makes sense. I don't speak as a self-interested party in this as I have never used anything in the past.

The thought that the U.S. would retaliate for laws in regards to Canadian citizens has to be seen through the prism of Prohibition. We loosened our laws for our reasons. We can't be in lockstep with them on this as we have a drug problem in Canada.

We certainly see it here in Manitoba. It is time we learned that arresting the gangs doesn't eliminate the demand.

cherenkov said...

Anon, I may be mistaken, but my understanding was that legalization was a step further than decriminalization. I.e. decriminalization is akin to turning a blind eye, whereas legalization is actually saying it's okay to do it. If it's legalized, we can tax it, whereas if it's only decriminalized there is no basis to regulate and tax it because it's not technically legal.

Marty: that's not helping dispel the rumours that you're the Black Rod. Thanks for the link though, I had forgotten about that post.

JD: You have a good point. The potential trade and travel ramifications need to be considered, but we don't necessarily have to shape our policy according to theirs. Some deft diplomacy may help.

Anonymous said...

cherenkov, you are right, I have my terms mixed-up. De-crim means it not a criminal offense but may still carry a fine, like a traffic ticket, this is what has been done in other countires. Legalization means regulation like alcohol or tobacco.

If you really want it out of the hands of gangs it should be de-crimanalized and de-regulated, like salvia.

Gustav Nelson said...

Why is it that us libertarians are called the nut jobs, but the ones who want rule your life are accepted?

Good post. Legalizing would be the way to go. What's the harm in trying it out? Couldn't be worse than the mess that's already created.

cherenkov said...

I think you know this, but just to clarify: I don't personally think Libertarians are nut jobs .. just joking about the typical reaction. Eg. Ron Paul has more common sense than any other Republican candidate, but the mainstream view him as the old guy with the crazy ideas.

Gustav Nelson said...

I figured as much, but still was wondering why anyway.

Anonymous said...

Maybe because some believe good will prevail over bad when there are no rules in society. Just a thought .

Gustav Nelson said...

See, that's the problem. Libertarians aren't anarchists. We believe in the rule of law and that people should be held accountable for their actions. We don't believe in senseless laws though.

reedsolomon.matr1x at gmail.com said...

The problem is, if left alone innocent bystanders will surely suffer. That is not an option. I do agree with de-criminalization and (in some cases like pot) legalization. It is unfortunate that the government in power right now in Canada is against it (ridiculously so) when now would be the perfect time to do so (especially with public opinion in the USA high on the idea.. no pun intended)

cherenkov said...

Reed, I doubt that any major party would be bold enough to propose legalizing or decriminalizing pot. At least at this stage. Maybe sometime down the road.

Melissa Martin said...

I'm a pretty strong proponent of legalization of marijuana at least, though I don't feel the same way about harder drugs for various rigorously self-examined reasons.

For the record I strongly dislike pot, so I don't own a horse running in that race -- I just have yet to see any argument in favour of its criminalization that actually holds up or makes sense.

So a combo of legalizing pot and improving addictions treatments is sort of what I aim for. I wish I could find this study now -- there was once a study in the U.S. that came to the conclusion that financing addictions treatments instead of "the war on drugs" would produce significantly better, and more cost-effective, improvements across the board -- including crime reduction.

At the end of the day, my general observation is that addiction is the driving force behind almost all the ills in our society. We can't keep treating the symptoms (crime, youth violence, poverty, child welfare, etc.) while ignoring -- and indeed, continually underfunding -- treatment for the underlying disease.

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