Prime Time Crime  



(Prime Time Crime April 10, 2004)

Canada building perfect template for Organized Crime


By Derik Latham


Sadly for Canada, it seems impervious to the international reputation it seems to be building as the perfect template for organized crime and favorite location/hideout of the international terrorist.


I hold the belief ports themselves are business entities that are motivated more by commerce and profits than the need for security -therefore I think they see police (and even security) most times, as a hindrance and/or a liability.


Unfortunately, and this is an opinion not just based on the stated article listed below, but if we are being entirely honest here, there really is no police force currently in Canada today with either; the presence, budget, manpower or resources, to make any positive impact in this area.  So sadly, the ports of Canada do go pretty much "un-policed" these days, as they have for many years.


From all the politicians to the police agencies collectively involved, they all give good lip service to this terrible, unfortunate, un-wanted situation we find ourselves with, mostly with vigorous denial. 


You witness this through the ‘un-official’ and standard denial process, which is to throw out one of these timely public statement messages in the national newspapers once or twice a year (as they do) and there you go - public appeased, port officials satisfied and a good policing job done - ergo, what organized crime problem?  We (as in police, government and port authorities) said we would attack it, therefore it is now defeated - right? 


The closer truth of the matter is, the Canadian government and city policing ranks are riddled with those walking about as “self-professed experts" in ports policing or port security, when nothing could be more removed from the truth - and maybe, just maybe, that's 'why' we have a problem of such magnitude with security risk and organized crime rampant in our ports, that the authorities just cannot grapple with or figure it out...


From all the authorities we do have in place today (to decide the best way to address these issues), well they don't really know 'how' to solve the problem, do they.  If they did, how is it that the rest of the world now consider Canada a definite security risk more leaky than proverbial Henry's bucket, and here at home they see it completely shipshape and water-tight? 


I would like to see the authorities table a public record documenting 'why' they disbanded the Ports Canada Police in the first place – and prove or disprove once and for all what they (or better yet, we the public) actually gained or lost?  Do that, embrace that, and then we'll see where the problem and truth really lies. 


But it will never happen as it would mean an inquiry equal or more involved than the Somalia inquiry itself, and make no mistake, this is a very powerful lobby to contend with.  When you can actually orchestrate the disbandment of a national police force (so organized crime can work in impunity) and also shut up the media, you better believe this is a powerful, controlling organization! 


The biggest mistake of the Vancouver Port and the biggest problem of the Vancouver Police Force (with ‘some’ RCMP attitudes), has been in their collective failure to not listen to the true global experts who are not only willing, but ready and able to tell them how they can fix it! Namely, start by speaking and asking the IAASP for some help.  This is after all, the worlds largest body of dedicated ports police membership there is, so why wouldn't they have a best practices model in how to do this right – which they do, and which is working in many global ports! 


In the IAASP you have an international body of the worlds top experts as Chiefs of Police for Airports & Seaports and senior business and government port VIPS all with a working knowledge or interest in this environment, represented in over 60 countries – and over here, well over here you have the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP both on record as saying, there is nothing at all the IAASP can tell them they don't already know, so they don't want or need their help – how arrogant and removed from the truth is that then! 


I wonder what the Canadian public would really think if they saw a newspaper headline that said something to the effect: “…Vancouver Police and Vancouver Port Authority now elevate themselves to being global ports police experts…” or “…The world leading experts in dedicated ports policing, the IAASP, discounted as inferior to their standards - say the Vancouver Police and RCMP…” or “…The worlds leading experts in dedicated ports policing, the IAASP, unknown by the VPD and Canadian ports – so who are the IAASP…?” 


Pick any of those headlines (or create your own similar kind) and let the public decide for themselves if the IAASP know anything about what they do best – which is Dedicated Ports Policing, and then let the Canadian public decide “why” the Vancouver Police Dept., the RCMP, the Canadian government and the Canadian Ports have all refused to acknowledge the existence of the IAASP – it is simple really, because it is quasi-experts making these decision's, not the government Ministers, who I believe if they were told these things, or met with the IAASP, they would see a different picture entirely, and so these entities don't want them to hear the truth, as lets face, their own jobs would be in jeopardy wouldn't they - and if the did acknowledged them (the IAASP) and their ideas were implemented, then the likes of the Vancouver Police (as with other police agencies) would soon have to bow out to a new ports police agency and go back to what THEY do best (city policing) and the port authorities of Canada and the organized crime entities would have to deal with a proper police presence once again - something they worked vigorously at - and finally succeeded in eliminating entirely, 7 years ago! 


I say if the public actually knew how hard the VPD and elements of the RCMP themselves fought for the removal of the Ports Canada Police anyway (contrary to their public and politically correct support at the time), the public would be shocked nearly as much as knowing how long this arrogance to refuse to recognize the IAASP has persisted (and their stubborn refusal to accept they don't have all the answers).  


If these bodies continue to look to re-inventing the wheel by implementing more untried, untested models in place of what actually works, it is the best indication I have known or been aware of that can indicate and tell you that leadership and direction are still sorely missing. 


As long as Canadian port authorities continue to have the autonomy, permission and legal right our government abdicated to them (probably the least understood and biggest mistake it ever made - if it was a mistake and not a deliberate action) which allows them in turn (in most cases through less experienced individuals) to decide 'how' to provide security for our Canadian ports, then these problems endemic to the environment and culture of ports connected to organized crime, will remain just an enigma to them and also to the city police departments tasked with these extra duties to eradicate it, but who really have no concept or clue as to what dedicated ports policing is all about to make the difference! 


Based on the poor example Canada provides in how to do it all wrong, I think all ports will (or should be) be forced in future to consider and document this kind of rationale (which they have never done or produced in Canada in the past) as it needs to be known for public record once and for all, what it is that we the public have actually allowed them to do and have agreed in giving up and lost - by choosing their personal option to disband a national (but autonomous) police presence, for one of mediocre and controllable security - it goes to accountability. 


In their own ways (police, civil servants, the public and media alike), many work tirelessly in trying to change the views and mindset of federal and provincial politicians and port authorities in respect to the value of dedicated ports policing in Canada, and to bring it back. 


While having the services of a ports police force may cost more in the port budget (in comparison to the cost of having a security agency handle this role instead) that one factor alone cannot be the determining factor of its overall benefit to any port community or the country as a whole. 


In the long run, I would hate to put a cost figure to the potential loss to global business coming to Canada simply through the loss and damage to our reputation the past 7 years, brought about by the influences of organized crime alone?  I am sure it would make the initial savings investment of having something they could control  - a controllable security force - in place of something they couldn't control (an autonomous police force), pale by comparison and make one reconsider that having a dedicated police force was cheap at any price! 


The damage done to the Canadian reputation in the international community (as a vibrant, honest place to come and conduct business), is so far gone and damaged now, the current federal government mismanagement woes of a sponsorship scandal will seem quite insignificant by comparison - in the greater scheme of things to come. I really doubt government, Transport Canada and the Canadian Port Authority (and key business figures) could handle the fallout.  I am sure it would fragment society and destroy Canada's previously hard earned reputation as an ideal country to live in, for decades to come... 


Don't let the recent expansion deal between the port of Vancouver and the major port conglomerate P&O fool you either, it will not be long I am sure before others start looking to move and take our trade elsewhere because of such backroom deals. 


What really needs to be considered here, is this type of business deal, which would potentially make the port of Vancouver about 10 times larger over the next 50 years than it is now (by expansion), is the question of whether or not it is going to make the problem of port security more improved, or more of a threat? I would say the latter, and if you think we're not prepared for a terrorist incident now… 


Lets just analyze one recent Canadian Port Authority action: Would a port of Vancouver led Canadian Port Authority Association really have been needed (as they did recently) to lobby and ask the federal Canadian government for a $100 million dollars (to help them INCREASE security and enhance security measures – over and above what they already have) if they still had a dedicated ports police style force present, leading and directing their total security needs?  If you look at how the rest of the world have actually enhanced their police presence in ports leading up to and post 9/11, I think we know the answer. 


The fact the RCMP officer who made the recent statement posted in the Vancouver Sun (when he actually admitted we had a serious organized crime problem on a scale the public have no idea about) is remarkably really, as they are renown for admitting nothing.  Knowing the RCMP never do anything publicly that isn't politically motivated well in advance, I have to say that statement on the situation is their own excuse (prior to getting involved) that if/when they ever do so and they cannot sort it, they can always fall back on that (sort of like, we came in to sort the mess, don't blame us) and in that light, there is a lot of truth there and the finger of blame does need to be pointed elsewhere! 


But that said, lets face it, this statement by the RCMP is a move to identify the void or vacuum that currently exists in ports policing in this country and it is also their own orchestrated power move to step in and be that next ports police agency - or making sure they have a big say in its next involvement!


I think that would be their mistake though, for they have done this in the past and have admitted in the past, they just could not handle it and this type of policing is best done by a dedicated agency, NOT another RCMP division. 


So I really think it is high time Government Ministers started taking a serious look at not just 'who' they listen to anymore, but who the REAL experts are and 'where' this kind of  money budgeted for security is constantly being allocated (what police departments get what amounts - and how it is being spent by them?) ... 


So maybe a more in-depth Somalia type independent inquiry or Sheila Fraser type forensic audit is needed on Government, Transport Canada, Canadian Port Authorities, selected major business partners, Provincial Police Forces and city police forces as well as the RCMP role or involvement - even if it does open Pandora's box... 


The fact is, prior to 9/11, dedicated ports policing was only taken seriously by those involved in it.  Since then, while the profile has brought them into the global limelight (and city police rush to fill the void and get the benefit of huge dollars in budget and manpower increases where no dedicated ports police exist), it is sad the Canadian government cannot seem to understand the best method to solve this problem is to bring back a national, dedicated ports police force (not give even more millions to city police departments that will use the budget to police the city and ignore or disregard the waterfront anyway).


Dedicated Ports Policing is the only model that has ever worked in combating these type of problems in Canada - which even the RCMP are on record as stating as being the best approach!  


One of the major problems the RCMP identified in doing it as a marine division or leaving it to city police, is that for all the manpower you do assign there and for all the experience they may accumulate, eventually, they can miss career opportunities and so leave to go back to their previous environments, in search of normal career advancements etc. and so you lose all that experience and have to start all over again.


Look at the model of New York currently being considered for adoption by the London Metropolitan force as a modern approach to dedicated ports policing – they even have their own state of the art, dedicated ports police academy.  So if you join the police in New York, you basically get assigned to the City, the Airport, or the Waterfront – and that is where your career plays out for the most part. They recognize what the term “dedicated ports policing” means and they are not trying to re-invent the wheel there – that is a model all progressive countries and police forces are moving to adopt – with Canada's exception – the only time Canada will move to do so, is if the pressure increases and they are forced to do so, through legislation or public outcry.


So in contrast to all the failed policies and initiatives and direction in these areas in our Canadian Ports since taking over from the Ports Canada Police, I take the position that our ports are missing an important link to solving this problem - that in today's security aware businesses and public, a port actually becomes more profitable and their image more appealing and respected, by the very nature of "improved" security through a dedicated ports policing presence.  That reassurance and relief one gets of seeing a friendly police officer present speaks volumes - and more so when they're not!


Canadian port marketing guru's need to be told (or shown) how to market that security idea and concept, for if they can stand by the belief that an enhanced security (through improved police services) is now a product (and asset) they can use to aggressively market and increase port profits, it may all turn out (luck on their side) to be a win-win situation!  To improve security through better, dedicated ports policing, is the only rationale that makes any sense today in a world environment of ever increasing global terrorism and new security threats. 


For example:  I think if US ports wanted to compete with Vancouver for the cruise ship industry, they could take it away overnight if they were serious and aggressive enough - if they marketed their own dedicated ports police and security in the right way!  That is a serious threat to the Vancouver and BC economy and if you think a lumber tariff or Salmon fishing issue was a BC concern, I can only imagine the collapse to the BC economy if our tourism industry started disappearing this way. 


So I think if policing and security was marketed properly (for the safety and peace of mind to the traveling public need) I think right now, the US have a competitive edge Vancouver doesn't have - and I know if I was a US citizen and somebody asked me which was a more safer, more secure location to board a cruise ship from, how I would reply - that is the marketing advantage the US ports have right now over Vancouver. 


When they see this for what it truly is, Vancouver will have no option but to upgrade their own policing and security levels to match them, or they can wait for the US ports to figure it out, then watch the cruise ship business sail south of the border and see Vancouver (or Prince Rupert) become a one day port of call only...


I believe this kind of competitive nature and desire for increased profit and market share by most ports, will eventually force them to re-think their current marketing strategies (and past perceptions) on policing and security!  These problems will force them to find new ways to go about marketing their ports - by the very nature of the industry and the effect of globalization. 


* As much influence as the ISPS Code has had on global port security (while many have done nothing and just whined and moaned about the costs involved – like the Vancouver Port Authority), I think a few have actually had the vision and/or taken time to step back and see 'how' to market this need to their own particular advantage (so far).


In seven years of policing the port of Vancouver, the most men (if they have ever been available) that the Vancouver Police Department agreed to task or assign to the needs of the Port of Vancouver, was 10 men - count them, just 10 men.  This was their statement and agreement to the Vancouver Port Authority in taking over from the former Ports Canada Police – and you will find this historical fact posted on the internet.


Here's something else to consider (that I doubt few ever have), has this documented number of men the Vancouver Police are on record as stating (and being accepted) was all they would ever need to provide the policing needs of the port of Vancouver (in place of the former Ports Canada Police), ever been questioned or challenged and whatever became of that objection?  Why was it allowed to proceed and was that the excuse or basis they needed then (that 10 Vancouver police could do what it took 24 ports police officers to do) the excuse they all needed to remove the ports police in Vancouver?  If so, who is truly responsible for the demise of the Ports Police? 


While is was approved and accepted by the Vancouver Port Authority, I would say there is a better than good chance that if the Vancouver police (as they have been on record in claiming) they have at times been at least a 100 men min. for even their city policing needs - then there is a better than average chance they have not paid much attention and have probably sorely neglected the Vancouver waterfront and have not come close to meeting their statement commitment or mandated agreement which got them the job in the first place.  So I think you CAN point a finger at the Vancouver Police Dept. and say that a lot of the blame for letting this situation and national problem of organized crime on our waterfronts get out of hand, does rest squarely on their own shoulders as one of the major police departments involved – and certainly not on those of the RCMP. 


Compound Vancouver's problem to every port in Canada and you can see 'why' we have a problem with organized crime - it is not just that there is no dedicated ports police, or even city policing initiatives to improve port policing in this country, the fact is, the ports themselves have basically gone un-policed day after day, for years on end! 


The question politician's (and even police departments) need to answer honestly and truthfully now, is if they all agree that if this is the most amount of men (10) that BCs largest police force actually need (but can't find to assign) to ports policing today (as I say, if they have ever actually put 10 men to work there in any given day?).  Really, how does this equate to attacking the problem of organized crime on Vancouver's waterfront, or any waterfront in this country?  Or for that matter, how does having an RCMP marine unit of just a few assigned men to 'research' organized crime address the issue either?  So if the combined efforts of the RCMP and Vancouver Police amount to basically no more than status quo lip service, how does this address the problem or provide assurances or commitment to the Canadian public that these issues have ever really been taken seriously? Clearly it just doesn't! 


Those that come to understand the nature (and value) of dedicated ports policing, and the marketability of having INCREASED (not less) port police providers of their overall security needs or management, will always be to the fore. 


Something that is going to be interesting to observe or document, is to see if the same trend continues and the policing of Canadian ports is something to be continually discounted and trivialized (at least here in Canada), or instead, if dedicated ports policing is actually going to be revisited as being a beneficial service to Canadian society and port authorities and their respective business partners and providers, beneficial to the best way in improving its own image (as a safe place to come and conduct business - once again) in the international arena... Derik 


PS – As you know, since I wrote this Monday, on Wednesday, the Transport Minister of Canada, Tony Valerie, went public in Vancouver with the statement that the government are now considering bringing back a dedicated ports police force to Canada – which, was quickly discounted in the Vancouver Sun and on BCTV by the Vancouver Chief of Police, the BC Attorney General and the Vancouver Port Authority as something that will never happen – not surprising since parties here had a major say in removing the former Ports Canada Police in the first place!


The above response, was in regards to the Article below 



B.C. home to 5 RCMP top targets Interest in Hells Angels, Big Circle Boys, ports 'no secret'  

Vancouver Sun 

Friday, March 12, 2004 


Organized crime in British Columbia is so widespread that five of the RCMP's nine national priority investigations this year will be conducted here, B.C.'s Assistant Commissioner Gary Bass said Thursday. 


He said he obviously could not give specific details publicly on who exactly will be targeted in B.C., but the fact the RCMP has identified the "guys or groups" as tactical priorities "shouldn't come as a surprise to them."


"The [RCMP's] national strategic priorities each year identify the heads of the big criminal organizations and we go after them. 


These are long-term investigations," Bass said at a conference on organized crime in Vancouver. 


"Of the nine tactical priorities, five are in B.C. and all are in the Lower Mainland. It just gives you a sense of where B.C. fits within the national picture. ... It should demonstrate we have a serious organized-crime problem -- more than most in this country." 


Bass added it's "no secret" the RCMP would be interested in chapters of the Hells Angels, Italian organized-crime figures and leaders of the Asian organized crime group Big Circle Boys. The RCMP's 2003 Strategic Threat Assessment also lists ports as a national strategic priority. 


He said a "big chunk" of the money made by organized crime comes from drugs. He said B.C. marijuana profits are conservatively estimated to be about $6 billion a year, making it the third- largest "industry" in B.C. after fishing and forestry. 


Bass added police estimate they are able to intercept only five per cent of the drugs. "Every major drug case we undertake lasts six months to one year and can involve 20 to 30 officers." 


He said the marijuana that is grown in B.C. is smuggled to the United States, where the price of the drug is considerably higher than it is in Canada, and traded for cocaine. 


Bass said police don't have the resources to do everything that needs to be done, so they must spend time evaluating the most significant threats to the province and the country. 


"Myself and my counterparts across the country meet in September and set targets. By January we have an operational plan of attack and by April we will start the operations.


He said RCMP are trying to make the "right choices with the resources we have."


"I think it will take time before [Canadians] recognize how bad a situation we're at today," he said. "Organized crime has started to get a greater hold in this province... Primarily it's involved in commodities. It's about getting the most profit with the least risk. 


Prostitution is ideal for organized crime because it has a high profit margin and low enforcement.


"There's so much drug activity going on it's very difficult to make a difference at any level," he said. 


"The drug of the day switches. There is a horrendous problem right now with crystal methamphetamine. It's very highly addictive with very few episodes required. But if crystal methamphetamine was legalized tomorrow it [illegal drug dealing] would be something else," he said. 


According to the RCMP's website, the force's Organized Crime Strategy 

will focus on "reducing the threat and impact of organized crime. Critical to our success in countering the growth of these groups, and dismantling or disrupting their structures and sub-groups, is the improved co-ordination, sharing and use of criminal intelligence in support of integrated policing, law-enforcement plans and strategies." 



IAASP Press Release


The IAASP are greatly concerned regarding the fact that wide publicity has been given to the growth of organized crime in Canadian and British Columbia ports and to their alleged links to facilitate acts of terrorism. 


From our experience in port policing matters, we know that the best-policed ports in the world are those that have their own dedicated police funded by, and sharing operational responsibilities with, the port administration. We understand that in Canada, various police departments are charged with the responsibility of policing Canada’s ports at the public expense.


Multi-jurisdictional alternatives to port policing are acknowledged to be less effective and more costly to tax payers than the services of dedicated port police that are traditionally financed from port revenues.  The ‘one stop shopping’ port-policing concept has proven to be a much more efficient law enforcement tool. 


Efforts by other countries to effectively police ports using non-dedicated police have invariably failed. It is recognized that alternative systems of port policing rely heavily on the cooperation between a number of agencies with diverse and often conflicting responsibilities, jurisdictions and mandates. 


Human nature being what it is, it is no secret that multi-agency working relationships relating to law enforcement are notoriously problematic. In ports this is particularly acute when there is a failure to identify all the priorities and intricacies of policing within port environments. 


Other problems arise in that law enforcement personnel assigned to ports tend to be transitional rather than permanent.  Valuable experience is lost when officers move on to pursue non-port related career opportunities or transfers within their own departments.  


Ports are best protected by port police when their mandate is comprehensive enough to include a broad range of law enforcement responsibilities with particular emphasis on criminal intelligence, port security, emergency response, anti-terrorism measures and national security issues. In this way the dedicated port police are usually the focal point for effective inter-agency liaison because they have a better working knowledge and long term experience of all personnel, port operations, systems and processes. 


It is essential for the port police to be recognized as an asset to port commerce and accepted as part of the port community and culture. This can only be achieved when port police have a full understanding of industry priorities and are a supportive partner in all port related activities. 


In British Columbia local police and RCMP have publicly claimed that they are facing shortages, budget restraints and pressures to deal with citizens concerns. This situation creates a need to establish priorities that can only lessen the ability of police to provide a more concentrated and permanent police presence in BC ports. 


In the US, our members perform dedicated police services and are employed by port authorities. They serve in ports that are in direct competition with Canadian ports. Since the events of 9/11, these dedicated policing services have been enhanced with more human and technical resources together with increased responsibility for port security and national security issues. 


US ports with their dedicated port police have more efficient systems to protect against the infiltration of organized crime and acts of terrorism thereby making their ports safer and more secure. Port police in US ports have the advantage of an infrastructure where the police services are inextricably linked to port security. This enhances the port security process particularly in the areas of record keeping, quality control, response and investigation into security breaches and suspicious incidents. 


If the integrity of the Canadian port system comes into question, the marketing of port policing and port security by US ports can be expected to create a distinct competitive advantage and noticeable economic impact. 


It is known that Canada at one time had its own dedicated port police under the federal crown corporation of Ports Canada. The unit in Vancouver was recognized as being most effective and was a vital part of the law enforcement community in British Columbia.


It is probable that Canada’s seaports are much less protected now than they were under the national port system when port police were in place and Canada’s Transport Minister had much more influence and control over the national ports. 


We understand that at the time of the disbandment of the former Ports Canada Police, the provincial government was opposed to the federal initiative.


We have recommended to the current federal Minister of Transport that the previous concept of dedicated port policing in Canada’s seaports be revisited and police funding from port revenues be restored. The same principle should also be applied to airports. 


To address increasing threats and exposures, seaports have been required to fund recently applied security measures in accordance with international protocols under the International Maritime Organization (IMO) International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code in accordance with the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention. We see no reason why funding for dedicated port policing should not be included in this same process. 


Dedicated port police have a greater role in port security matters often overseeing the process and are better placed to conduct threat and risk assessments taking into account the risks and exposures posed by the criminal and extremist elements as part of their overall port security assessment. In addition permanent port police are much more aware of the activities and identification of the criminal elements in ports. This fact obviates the need for the controversial criminal records and background checks of port workers as recommended in the new security measures.


The members of the IAASP are the worlds leading experts in dedicated port policing and security. Based on the unique experience of our members, we have developed a comprehensive ‘Port Policing Model’ based on ‘best practices’ for port policing.  


We also have a (dedicated) Port Police Audit Programme and other materials setting standards for port policing, security and emergency response. 


We also issue daily news bulletins, intelligence bulletins and officer safety advisories focusing on Terrorism, Organised Crime and Political Developments to keep our members well informed on current domestic and  international events that could have a possible impact  on the policing or security in ports. 


Established for more than 35 years, the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police (IAASP) is a non-profit and non-governmental organization dedicated to influencing the standards of safety and security in ports and to the exchange of information and experience. 


We are a registered society in the State of Washington USA and the Province of B.C. Canada and are named under Section 109 of the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act 2002.  We also sit on the International Advisory Board for Maritime Security Initiatives of ISO/TC8. In 2003 we were invited by the Secretary General of the IMO to apply for Consultative Status with this organization. 


Office of the Secretariat, IAASP   







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