Dermod Travis: B.C. cities' low cop-to-population ratios allow gangs to thrive

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      Move over Quebec, the mantle may have been passed.

      With last week's release of Dirty Money, the report on money laundering in B.C. casinos by former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German, the province that Maclean's magazine once called the most corrupt in Canada could find itself an also-ran to B.C. if the magazine chose to update its rankings.

      A lot of public attention has been focused on the shock-and-awe videos that Attorney General David Eby played at that news conference, but not so much on the connections between crime, gangs, and money laundering.

      In his report, German spelled out a number of similarly connected criminal offences, including: loan sharking, drug trafficking, extortion, and prostitution.

      Needless to say in the wake of the report there have been calls for the police to do more. But with what?

      Sometimes in B.C. there's a bit of an—how might one put it?—allergy to things like data and benchmarks, particularly when it comes to interprovincial comparisons.

      B.C. relies more heavily on contract policing with the RCMP to serve local communities than any other province in Canada, accounting for 62 percent of B.C. police officers in 2017. In Alberta, it's 36 percent.

      What do we get for it? Some of the lowest ratios for police officers to residents of any province.

      In Richmond, there are 94 officers per 100,000 population and that includes those working at the Vancouver International Airport, Kelowna (134), Surrey (142), Vancouver (196) and Victoria (233).

      Across Canada, there are 185 officers per 100,000 population.

      For the six B.C. communities that rely on RCMP contract policing with a population of more than 100,000, there are 126 officers per 100,000. Across Canada, it's 161 for similar-sized communities.

      The savings aren't appreciable. Total policing costs across the other nine provinces worked out to $354 per capita. In B.C., it was $334.

      Then there's the other cost to our communities.

      There were 19 murders in Vancouver last year. The murder rate was 2.9 per 100,000 population. In Montreal, there were 24 and the murder rate was 1.3.

      Five days before the release of German's report, Paul Bennett, a nurse and hockey coach, was gunned down outside his Surrey home in what appears to be a targeted shooting.

      Less than two weeks later, Surrey mayor Linda Hepner released the findings of yet another task force on gangs and violence in that community. It follows other task forces over the last 10-years that have all produced comparable recommendations, but little in the way of results.

      Much of the credit for Montreal's success at cutting it's murder rate and the accompanying gang violence that went with it, goes to Daniel Desrochers.

      Next month will mark the 28th anniversary of Daniel's death at the hands of a biker gang. He was 11 years old, when he was blown up in a botched car bombing.

      The resulting furor forced the government's hand.

      How many Jaskaran Singh Bhangaland's and Jaskarn Singh Jhutty's—both gunned down in Surrey three weeks before Bennett—does B.C. need before the realization sets in that the gangs are laughing all the way to the money launderers?

      If we want a crackdown, we don't need more task forces, we need more resolve. And if we're going to ask the cops to do more, we need to pony up more.