Canada: MB: Police Reorganize To Battle Drug Trade

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Mar 27, 2005
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MB: Police Reorganize To Battle Drug Trade



CITY police have reorganized to more effectively fight the drug trade controlled by organized crime groups in Winnipeg.

Staff Sgt. John Ormondroyd said yesterday the organized crime unit will be combined with the drug unit.

He said that will make it possible to deploy two shifts of investigators during the week, putting more officers on the street who are working together rather than in separate units.

Ormondroyd said the refocusing of how police go after gangs wasn't driven by any event. Rather, he said, it is an acknowledgment that officers in the drug unit and officers in the organized crime unit frequently found themselves investigating the same people.

He also said the intent of the change is to hit gangs where it will hurt the most.

"Organized crime in Winnipeg -- the way they make money is through drugs," Ormondroyd said. "This is a more effective way of doing business." Officers with the two units will work in one office and report to the same commanders, he added.

"There's less bureaucracy," Ormondroyd said. "This gives them greater ability to communicate, share ideas and less overlap. Plus, it puts more people on the street."

Police do not publicly comment on the number of officers assigned to investigative units.

The switch-over -- it should be completed by April 20 when the current round of officer transfers and promotions is finished -- comes at a time of apparently greater instability in the city's drug trade. On March 11, Hells Angel member Billy Bowden was wounded in a shooting at a Corydon Avenue bar. Police do not know why he was shot, but it's believed to be drug-related.

According to police, the Bandidos outlaw motorcycle gang is currently attempting to establish a chapter in the city. Police sources say the evolution of the Bandidos in Winnipeg since last October, and the fact they're openly flaunting their gang's insignia in a city supposedly controlled by the Hells Angels, is likely a sign of bad things to come.

The Hells Angels are the most prominent of the city's drug gangs and are known to set and enforce a strict street price for narcotics. Independent drug dealers are allowed to work as long as they sell drugs supplied by the gang or pay a tax to the gang if they bring drugs into the city themselves.

Asian gangs also control a segment of the city's trade in cocaine, a variety of designer drugs, marijuana and, increasingly, crystal methanphetamine.

Police sources say the Hells Angels and Asian gangs have so far been co-existing peacefully, but for how long that will be the case remains anyone's guess. With the introduction of the Bandidos, the drug pie could be carved into three pieces.

"The Hells Angels and the Bandidos have a world-wide truce," a police source said. "But the Asians don't have a truce with anyone. They don't want to lose customers. There's a lot of money to be made."

Yves Lavigne, a Toronto author who has written on the Hells Angels and organized crime, said yesterday the change in how city police investigate gangs is a big step in the right direction.

"Criminals don't have bureaucracies -- they only have bottom lines," he said.

And those bottom lines are fuelled by drug sales, he said. "You don't see gangs fighting each other any more," he said. "There's room for everyone. That's because there's been a huge growth in the drug market. It just seems endless. It's like an exploding universe.

"So I see this change as police getting smarter. They're not going to wait for the violence to start there. They're going to go after these guys before it gets that way."

Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2005 Winnipeg Free Press
Contact: [email protected]

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