(This column was published in the North Shore News on Feb. 14, 2001)

 

Angels spread their wings

By Leo Knight

A year or so ago, I was in Montreal doing some research into an organized crime story for another publication.  

 

In the course of speaking with some police officers tasked with investigating the ramifications of the war between the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine, I was told the Angels had become so powerful that they dealt manno a manno with the long-established Italian Mafia families.  

 

It couldn't be, could it? Had the Angels become that powerful or had the "men of respect" become so much less a factor?  

 

The concept of the beer-bellied bullies being invited to the linguini-laden tables of the pinky rings toppled my gyros.  

 

But, in fact, such is now the case. In Vancouver, for example, the six chapters of the Hells Angels have become the richest in the world of outlaw motorcycle gangs. They no longer send representatives to the so-called West Coast Officers Association meetings. They don't have to. They run things.  

 

But in looking at the structure of the East End, Vancouver, and Nomad chapters, we see they are inextricably tied to the local representatives of the Eastern Italian families.  

 

But it is the consolidation of their power and the striking of new alliances, which make the bikers even more dangerous.  

 

In the six years of the war for control of the drug trade in Quebec, 160 people have lost their lives including an 11-year-old boy. A further 173 people have been wounded in the shootings, bombings and beatings.  

 

Now it seems the Hells Angels are at least as powerful as the Italian Mafia, if not more so. In a Toronto Sun story last weekend, a police officer from their organized crime unit was quoted on the subject. "In the past," he said, holding his hands in front of him, "the Italians were up here, and the bikers there.  

 

"The tables have turned in the last 10 years, either the Angels are above or even," he said, realigning his hands. "The other groups are secret. The H.A.s? What are they fearing? They hide in plain sight."  

 

The Angels get their money and power from controlling the grow ops currently numbering in the thousands across the Lower Mainland. And no, they won't go away if we decriminalize or legalize marijuana despite what is being argued by many.  

 

Oh no, the Angels manufacture and distribute methamphetamine. They run vast cocaine networks. They control strippers, prostitutes, Internet porn and gambling. They engage in extortion, stock market rip-offs, counterfeiting satellite smart cards and a host of other things. In short, anything they can make money at that their organizational structure and intimidation tactics enhance.  

 

And now they have become more powerful than the "mob."  

 

* * *  

 

It's heartening to see the conviction last week in B.C. Supreme Court, of George Kerster, the former Socred MLA who had tried to purchase the sexual services of an 11-year-old girl.  

 

Kerster was caught in the web of Vancouver Detective Bruce Headridge's net. Headridge, currently seconded to the Organized Crime Agency of B.C., posed as the parent of an 11-year-old girl. The cops popped Kerster on his way to the hotel where he thought his illicit pleasures awaited.  

 

He tried to say that he could not be convicted because the girl was fictitious.  

 

Not so, said Madame Justice Kathryn Neilson. She found Kerster's intent and actions were sufficient for conviction. He will be sentenced on May 7.  

 

The decision will allow police to lurk in the chat rooms, trolling for these perverts and pedophiles without actually involving a real child. After the trial, Headridge said, '"It means that I can actively go out now and I've got a mechanism to go after individuals that would prey on children."  

 

But this doesn't solve all the problems facing police. "This is just one little area of the big problem," cautioned the detective.  

 

In fact there are a number of problems facing the police. And, as usual, government inaction is a big factor.  

 

In 1997 Headridge gave a presentation to the Solicitor General on the subject of child exploitation by pedophiles. Needless to say very little has been done since.  

 

One of the big issues for police is the lack of regulation on the Internet. Pedophiles use anonymous re-mailers and header masks to keep their identities secret. Now, the Internet itself is a vast modern-day version of the Wild, Wild West. Any type of site or content regulation is very difficult to enforce.  

 

But, it is not difficult to enforce Internet Service Providers to maintain logs of traffic and make them available for inspection. It's not spying on what people are looking at, it is merely keeping traffic logs and making them available to police with a search warrant. Most of Europe already has such legislation.  

 

Such legislation would be valuable given that most pedophiles have embraced the Internet and actively use it, like Kerster did, to victimize children for their own sick purposes.  

 

Surely our children are worth it.

 

-30-

 

 

 

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