NANAIMO — The special enforcement unit that deals with organized crime across the province says the city of Nanaimo has become a hub or thoroughfare for drug traffic on Vancouver Island.
The Nanaimo RCMP displayed seized drugs and cash valued at more than $180,000 Jan. 16 after they arrested a man believed to be linked to the Red Scorpions gang in Nanaimo this month.
The haul, a result of a raid conducted on the suspect’s residence, included a loaded .40-calibre handgun and about $120,000 worth of cocaine, in addition to heroin, methamphetamine and cash. The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C., which has an office on Vancouver Island, assisted in the seizure.
According to the unit, much of the movement of drugs such as cocaine and marijuana on Vancouver Island begins in Nanaimo, a central location with access along highway corridors to Campbell River in the north, Victoria in the south and Port Alberni and Tofino to the west.
“The gang landscape in Nanaimo is much like in many small towns of B.C. — it’s fairly dynamic and fluid,” said unit spokesman Lindsey Houghton.
Some members of Nanaimo’s criminal element spend time in the Lower Mainland, at known hangouts for organized crime.
At the same time, Nanaimo represents a chance for Lower Mainland gangsters to line their pockets.
“A lot of the people associated with the gang landscape in Nanaimo [go] to the Lower Mainland for the glitz and the glamour — to be seen,” said Houghton. “What we see going the other way are people going over [to Nanaimo] to make money because there’s still money to make.”
Vancouver Island University criminologist John Anderson took to the web after he read about the recent Red Scorpions bust to declare the seizure would do nothing to stop illegal drugs from entering Nanaimo.
Anderson is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international group of criminal justice professionals who speak out against the illegal status of drugs. The VIU professor is a former prison guard.
“There’s a huge demand for cannabis in British Columbia and other drugs as well,” said Anderson. “Violence in the market and the risk to the public [it brings] is because of the contraband nature of the product.”
He pointed to tobacco as an example of how people can be taught through education to avoid harmful substances, without the creation of a black market that funnels cash to criminals.
Anderson said he has watched as Nanaimo experiences violence more typical to large centres like Vancouver as a result of competition between gangs for market share.
Police pointed to the November 2007 seizure of a Hells Angels clubhouse in Nanaimo under the Civil Forfeiture Act as having a major impact on the drug market in Nanaimo.
The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said efforts to target the Hells Angels led to a push from gangs such as the Red Scorpions to “assert their dominance and control over the gang landscape in and around central Vancouver Island.”
That kind of competition, Anderson said, is bad news for public safety.
© Copyright 2013