(This column was published in the North Shore News on Aug. 4, 2004)
We shouldn't need a 'war' to deal with bikers
By Leo Knight
Plagued by rivalries, incompetence, and a general underestimation of the threat posed by the bikers, the police in B.C. - especially the RCMP - did little to take on the Hells Angels until their power made them virtually impregnable. - William Marsden and Julien Sher, The Road to Hell.
THE RCMP might argue that point, but the statement stands up under scrutiny.
The more difficult question to answer is: Why?
On Friday headlines blared in the Vancouver Sun that a biker war was coming to British Columbia. It was an interesting story that connected the dots between a couple of members of the Bandidos outlaw motorcycle gang living in the Lower Mainland and the adverse reaction the Hells Angels would take.
The story was clearly steered by the RCMP and was designed to gather some attention on the issue. Why, one might wonder, is it suddenly important for the RCMP to beat the drums of a biker war? Especially considering the two Bandits have been living here for at least a couple of years that I know of and possibly longer, depending on who you ask.
More puzzling too, is the effective demise of the Organized Crime Agency of B.C. (OCA), having been taken over by the RCMP lock, stock and $14.5-million dollar budget. So instead of having the lean organization that was having an effect, the agency has effectively become the Annacis Island detachment of the RCMP with all the attending bureaucracy that brings.
Instead of a Made in B.C. tool to fight organized crime, the carpet cops have effectively taken Victoria out of the game and deferred to Ottawa.
Just as an example of why this is a boost to the bad guys, consider the deputy chief of OCA, Peter Ditchfield, retired this past year. He was replaced by a Mountie inspector, on secondment, not a permanent position. Recently, a matter arose where she needed to go to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. She couldn't go.
In the RCMP, she is required to apply 15 days prior to going on this type of trip. She can't even go to Bellingham for a simple meeting without the permission of the carpet cops in Ottawa.
OCA was formed in 1999 and by design it was supposed to eliminate the bureaucracy. The specific mandate, according to their website, is "to facilitate the disruption and suppression of organized crime which impacts all British Columbians."
On the OCA website, Chief Dave Douglas says, "Our decentralized decision making process has given authority to those who possess the appropriate knowledge to make informed decisions. Such decisions must always be aligned with our overall mandate."
Maybe at one time, chief, but the carpet cops have taken over.
OCA had certainly scored some victories in its short history. But to see what has happened, one need only look at the most recent press release issued by the agency. It was in July 2003, and described the arrest of a Nomads Chapter member of the Hells Angels.
Since the Mounties have wrested control of the agency: nothing.
Which brings me back to why the RCMP might be spinning the story of an impending biker war. True, the Bandidos and the Hells Angels have been fighting wars for a decade in Europe, Australia and Quebec (since they patched over the Rock Machine).
True, two club associates were gunned down in Edmonton last February and the funerals were attended by members wearing Bandido colours. A month ago, a dozen members of the Bandidos were spotted in a trendy nightclub in Edmonton. The colours,
I'm told, were sporting an "Alberta" bottom rocker, clearly a challenge to the supremacy of the Hells Angels.
But the B.C. Angels have always managed to remain aloof to any involvement in the biker wars of other places. It's bad for business you see.
B.C. Hells Angels chapters are the richest in the world of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs and they have demonstrated they don't want to engage in anything that's bad for business.
Their dealings with the Viet and Indo gangs are evidence of this.
While their propensity for violence is certainly no less than their brothers in Quebec or Copenhagen, they have managed, for the most part, to keep it fairly low key. I say that knowing it's hard to keep low key about the 50 or so murders in the past few years that Vancouver police say "are OMG (Outlaw Motorcycle Gang) related."
The Bandidos, historically, have controlled much of the methamphetamine trade up and down the West Coast. With the proliferation of crystal meth on our streets, it's a good bet the Bandits have a hand in there somewhere. Given the money at stake, it's possible the Angels would try and get control of the market.
But, to do so, would undoubtedly bring on the war. And with a war ultimately comes the resulting outcry from the public that would be their undoing. Maurice Mom Boucher is a sterling example of this inevitability.
Add to this recent court decisions that have said they are a criminal organization and the likelihood that C-95 (gangsterism) prosecutions will be attempted, and I'd say it would be foolish of the bikers to attract the type of attention a war would bring. The B.C. Hells Angels have always seemed to understand this. It would be surprising to me, given the destruction of the Quebec Nomads chapter as a direct result of their war, that the B.C. Angels would be so undisciplined to risk their exceedingly lucrative business.
So, why the war spin? I'm betting the type of political nonsense, exposed by author Yves Levigne in his book, Hells Angels at War, is being trotted out again. In a nutshell, it's the whip-up-the-hysteria- and-demand-more-money-and-resources theory of attacking organized crime.
Organized crime is a huge problem and the biker gangs are a significant part of that problem. The case for necessary funding and resources should be easy to make on the merits. Attempts to whip up hysteria are little more than grandstanding and ineffectual.