By Heidi Bevington--We may be at the edge of the world, but organized crime is still reaching the islands, say the commanding officers of both RCMP detachments here.
"Organized crime touches everybody, whether they know it or not," said Sgt. Eric Stubbs of the Queen Charlotte detachment. "It's everywhere."
"Organized crime has reached major proportions throughout the province, said Sgt. Andrew Isles and Sgt. Stubbs in an overview of the problem provided to the Observer. "It is estimated that organized crime in the marijuana industry alone is worth $7.5-billion a year in the province."
The RCMP has a national strategy to deal with organized crime, said the two officers. Illegal drugs are the top priority, followed by outlaw motorcycle gangs, economic crime, high-tech crime, money laundering, illegal migration and trafficking of human beings, corruption and street gangs.
As removed from the problem as the islands might seem, it's here. "On the surface organized crime isn't very prevalent, but it is here when you dig deeper," said Sgt. Stubbs.
The drug trade and other aspects of organized crime are having an impact on communities, especially youth. "It affects people," said Sgt. Stubbs. "If your son is on cocaine, he's dealing with the local dealer, who's dealing with organized crime."
The justice system is 'under strain', said the two police officers, and BC is becoming a good place for drug dealers to do business because of "liberal sentencing practices for drug offences."
The RCMP is collaborating with groups such as municipalities and the BC Real Estate Association to reduce the amount of drugs grown and distributed through grow ops and clandestine labs, said Sgt. Isles and Sgt. Stubbs.
Another form of organized crime that affects islanders from time to time is credit card/ telemarketing and Internet scams. Since 1998, US and Canadian officials have seized or restrained $34,000,000 and charges have been laid against 40 Canadian telemarketers, said Sgt Stubbs and Sgt. Isles. Over 80-percent of the victims are over 65, and only about 10-percent of the crimes are reported 'due to shame and embarrassment," they said.
Organized crime on the islands includes people who conspire with friends and family to bring drugs to the islands. Any group of people who orchestrate a route to get drugs here are considered organized criminals, said Sgt. Stubbs.
"Crime is on a sharp increase across the province, predominantly fuelled by the combined cocaine and marijuana trade. As a result, we are witnessing the disastrous effects of drugs on our youth in even the smallest and most remote communities", said Sgt. Isles and Sgt. Stubbs. "Unfortunately, we will continue to experience higher crime rates in the foreseeable future and have to deal with the ramifications as it negatively impacts our collective quality of life."