Budget cuts hit gang unit
Sgt. Lindsey Houghton is the media spokesman for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit British Columbia. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)
Two provincially funded sections of the RCMP are being told they are in a budget deficit and have to cut $4.2 million from their operating budgets to get things back in line.
The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit will see $2.8 million cut from its budget and this includes the elimination of Team 6 — the unit specializing in gathering intelligence and investigating outlaw motorcycle gangs, known as OMG. Cuts will also be felt by the air support unit, which flies fixed-wing surveillance aircraft, used to augment ground surveillance teams.
Sgt. Lindsey Houghton, who speaks for the CFSEU, confirmed the cuts, but referred me to the deputy commissioner’s office for further comment or explanations.
Budgets are tight as the government asks the public sector to do more with less. Certainly, the government is focused on balancing the budget by next year, but I find these cuts troubling.
The reason the Hells Angels got so big and powerful is because they were neglected by law enforcement throughout the 1980s and most of the ‘90s. It wasn’t until the Vancouver Police Department launched and successfully concluded Project Nova that the nature of gangs began to be more fully understood and two gang member’s networks were taken down.
The prevalence of organized crime in B.C. got a thorough re-think and led to the formation of the Organized Crime Agency of B.C., which was later folded into the larger, broader RCMP-run CFSEU. You might recall that, at the time, Hells Angels members were involved in an eight-year-long bloody war in Quebec with the Rock Machine that claimed 160 lives, including that of an 11-year-old boy.
Why the cuts are more surprising is that Rock Machine patches have been showing up in the Lower Mainland in the last year, a clear provocation to the Hells Angels and why one would think the police would want to have the specialized expertise available.
One police member who has been intimately involved in the fight against OMG expressed frustration over the situation.
“Everything that we worked for in the last 10 to 20 years is being dismantled. There is going to be a black hole in our intel.”
Assistant Commissioner Norm Lipinski confirmed the “difficult decision that spending cuts needed to be made within CFSEU and Major Crimes.” An emailed statement said Major Crimes will see a budget cut of $1.4 million that will impact the Special Projects/Unsolved Homicide/Missing Persons program.
In relation to the CFSEU cuts, “It is important that you don't categorize this reduction as a general reduction in our commitment to target, investigate, prosecute, disrupt and dismantle organized crime groups in B.C.”
Commitment is one thing. Having the requisite resources is entirely another.
Leo Knight is a former police officer, security expert and host of primetimecrime.com.