RCMP are warning gangsters looking to holiday in the Okanagan this summer that they are not welcome here.
“They are not welcome here for the trouble they bring absolutely,” said Sgt. Martin Trudeau of the Penticton RCMP detachment.
As one of the smaller communities in the Okanagan, Penticton is not unknown to have gang members spend their summer vacations on its beaches. Trudeau said keeping tabs on gang members it is a matter of working very closely with the bigger detachments to share information, as well as working together with the liquor inspector and establishments gang members are known to hang out.
“Typically, the Victoria or August long weekend is a big one for us. These bigger events can bring out all types of people. We also will have Boonstock here and we are very much going to have the gang task force present here,” said Trudeau.
The Okanagan is an attraction to gangsters for many reasons said Trudeau.
“The Okanagan is a beautiful place, they have money and there is casinos here to gamble at. If the public thinks it is nice and quiet out here they are fooling themselves. The gangsters are around.”
Kelowna has seen the worst of the gang violence in the Okanagan in recent years.
“Over the past several years, police have noticed a considerable increase in gang presence throughout the central Okanagan during the summer months as gang members and their associates from across B.C. and Alberta venture to the hot beaches and cool waters here,” said Const. Kris Clark. “With them comes illicit drugs and the ever-present potential for a range of gang-related violence.”
One of the more high-profile incidents in the Okanagan was the brazen afternoon shooting of Red Scorpions member Jonathan Bacon in August 2011. RCMP said this also involved a full patch member of the Hells Angles and other organized crime groups. It happened steps away from the popular Kelowna waterfront area at the Delta Grand Hotel.
“While that level of gang violence is fortunately rare, the drugs they bring and fear they incite damage the community just as much as any gang murder could,” said Clark.
Penticton RCMP said they use a number of tools to try to track not only alleged gangsters but any type of troublemakers. This includes relationships with bar establishments who have security measures in place and are watching for public display of gang related colours and insignias on clothing or tattoos.
“By using our expertise as well as that of police from other jurisdictions we will be able to quickly and efficiently identify gang members and their associates,” said Supt. Nick Romanchuk, officer in charge of the Kelowna Regional RCMP. “We want them to know that they are not anonymous here, they are not wanted here and if they commit an offence of any kind, there will be zero tolerance.”