Three weapons-and-drugs raids just ‘tip of the iceberg’: police chief

Three recent cases involving weapons and drugs show the danger certain individuals pose to public safety in the city, says Victoria Police Chief Del Manak, adding they’re just the “tip of the iceberg.”

“There are people in our community who are highly violent, who are involved in a criminal enterprise and are carrying loaded handguns,” Manak said.

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Police displayed evidence from the cases Thursday, including a total of $50,000 worth of fentanyl, $8,400 worth of cocaine and two assault-style rifles modified to include silencers.

Three loaded handguns were also found during the investigations, which involved searches in November and on Jan. 9 and 10.

The investigations were done by the Victoria Police Department’s Strike Force, which uses techniques such as clandestine surveillance and undercover operations, and is focused on getting fentanyl and guns off the streets, said Manak.

Its work includes monitoring Lower Mainland groups known to be involved in crime, Manak said. “On occasion, members of these groups will frequent the Island and specifically come to Victoria.”

Some have connections to local crime groups, he said, noting conflict among those groups is a concern.

“This is really serious and we want to be sure we are doing our part,” Manak said. “We want to send a strong message that if you belong to an organized crime group and you want to come here to Victoria, that is not going to be a free ride.”

He said information from the public helped police in all three cases being highlighted.

The November arrest stemmed from a public tip and culminated in a search warrant being executed at a multi-unit residential building in the 1000-block of Tillicum Road and in two vehicles.

“Officers recovered drugs including cocaine and fentanyl,” Manak said. “Officers also discovered a loaded 9-millimetre Glock semi-automatic handgun in a false compartment in one of the vehicles.”

Six charges are being recommended against the man involved, including possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking and possession of a restricted or prohibited weapon. The vehicles are being submitted for consideration of civil forfeiture.

On Jan. 9, another man was arrested in the 700-block of Topaz Avenue and found to be in possession of fentanyl, a loaded handgun and cash. From there, police went to a multi-unit residential building in the 2600-block of Cook Street that was linked to the man to execute a search warrant. Officers found more weapons — including one of the assault-style rifles — ammunition and fentanyl.

“A woman who was in the suite was taken into custody without incident,” Manak said.

A second search warrant was executed back at the Topaz Avenue location and another loaded handgun was found.

Jordan Cody Moreland is facing a number of weapons charges and a charge of possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking.

The Jan. 10 arrest came about because police believed that a firearm was in a suite at the same Tillicum Road building as in the November case.

Police executed a search warrant after shutting down the road as a precaution, and located a .40-calibre handgun and body armour.

Andrew Brian Ritch, a 36-year-old Victoria man, is facing weapons charges.

Manak said the November case and the Jan. 10 case have a connection.

He said anyone with information to share with the Strike Force can call the unit directly at 250-995-7260 or the department’s non-emergency line at 250-995-7654. Calls can also be made anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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