BC safety minister big on buzzwords, short on immediate solutions to escalating gang conflict

May 14 2021, 1:39 pm

As the Lower Mainland grapples with a marked escalation in gang violence in recent weeks, including a series of daytime fatal shootings in public areas, BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth was asked on Friday how exactly the province is tackling the issue.

“The approach in dealing with this gang violence has to be a multi-pronged approach,” Farnworth said during a media briefing. “Obviously enforcement is one element, but so is prevention.”

This, he continued, is why “there has been, by government, considerable efforts around program development in just that area – many of them culturally specific – and for communities not just in the Lower Mainland but in different parts of the province.”

On Sunday, a man was gunned down in broad daylight at Vancouver International Airport, just outside the main terminal. The victim was 28-year-old Karman Grewal, who police said was known to be involved in the region’s gang conflict.

His death came just a day after 19-year-old Tony Dalipi was shot to death after leaving a business in Burnaby. An innocent bystander “in the wrong place at the wrong time” was also shot in the melee.

And just last night, a 23-year-old man was gunned down in the parking lot of a busy Burnaby shopping centre. Investigators say the execution was gang related.

shooting

Toni Dalipi/GoFundMe

Asked about safety assurances he could offer to the public, given the number and locations of the recent shootings across the region, Farnworth replied that “every police police agency is working together, bringing all the tools that they have available to deal with this scourge that is taking place right now.”

These various agencies, he continued, are “coordinated… they’re aligned, using every tool they can [and] are absolutely committed to surprising this cycle of violence. This is job number one, and the province is supporting them in every way we can.”

When asked if he could further specify how much manpower has specifically been committed to tackling the ongoing conflict, Farnworth didn’t answer directly, and instead repeated that police are “using all available tools and all available resources and that coordination and cooperation is taking place.”

In the meantime though, how do members of the general public avoid ending up in the crossfire?

Again, Farnworth did not answer directly, choosing to list a variety of initiatives and funding that the provincial government has implemented across the board.

“Police are doing everything they can and doing a very difficult job, and this is not a resources issue,” he stressed. “The public should have confidence in the fact police are committed to solving these cases and committed to getting this current cycle of violence under control.”

As far as any changes that might come at a provincial level, Farnworth said one of the things he’d like to see more of if possible, is the ability to “name and shame these people. I know there are some constitutional and legal issues around that, but… the more people who know who these individuals are, the more information we may be able to get, and the more awareness to the public we may be able to provide.”

YVR shooting

RCMP / Sukhwant Dhillon/AM 600 Sher-E-Punjab

Prior to his death last Sunday, Grewal had been the subject of just such a warning from a few years ago.

In March 2019, a man of the same name and age was arrested following a string of armed robberies in Surrey and Delta.

In the summer of 2017, Surrey RCMP released the identities of five men — one of whom was Grewal — who had each been the intended victims of recent shootings.

The RCMP aid at the time they took the rare step of identifying the victims because, although their lives were in danger, they had refused to cooperate with police.

Officers believed the men would likely be the targets of more violence, and therefore posed a risk to public safety.

On Friday, Farnworth said he sees two ways in which this gang violence might ultimately end:  “These gangsters either end up in jail or they end up dead.”

And if they end up dead, “they’re not mourned by anybody other than their families because they’re forgotten by everybody else.”

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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