Time to out gangbangers: Heed
LOWER MAINLAND: MLA says police should plaster undesirables’ images on wanted posters
It’s time to plaster gangbangers’ images on wanted posters and websites, and make the public aware of the dangers they pose, says MLA and gang expert Kash Heed.
Heed — whose career with the Vancouver police and in politics has been built on campaigns aimed at stemming B.C.’S gang and drug problems — says the drive-by execution of Ranjit Singh Cheema on Wednesday is yet another wake-up call.
Cheema, 44, was hit with a hail of bullets in East Vancouver, less than a block away from hundreds of children at Moberly Elementary School.
On Thursday afternoon, a man was shot to death in a Surrey home, close to the Khalsa school and preschool. Police are investigating possible gang links in that shooting.
“When you are talking about public safety, look at where Ranjit was killed, with hundreds of children around,” Heed said. “These privacy concerns? Public safety trumps them.
“If we have privacy issues, legislators need to look at that.”
There have been a string of gang murders that have put the public at huge risk over the past 18 months.
In January, longtime gangster Sandip Duhre was shot to death in a high-end Vancouver restaurant. Two months earlier, gang associate Alex Curtis was slain on a Sunday morning in Vancouver walking his dog.
On Aug. 14, 2011, Red Scorpion Jonathan Bacon was killed in broad daylight outside a Kelowna casino, while Hells Angel Larry Amero and Independent Soldier James Riach were hurt.
On Dec. 12, 2010, 10 people were injured, two critically, when gunmen opened fire on a group in a Vancouver restaurant.
On Oct. 16, 2010, Gurmit Dhak was executed while sitting in his luxury SUV in Burnaby.
Heed, a former B.C. solicitor-general and West Vancouver police chief, argues that in B.C., police are too reactive to gang violence, and too secretive about gangs and their associations.
He pointed to the Vancouver Police Department’s big-budget, multipronged campaign to draw tips from the public by publishing the identities of Stanley Cup 2011 rioters. Heed said that while not condoning the crimes of “young people who had too much too drink,” the issue is far less serious than gang violence.
The common police response to an innovative gangster-outing plan — gangsters have privacy rights, and investigations could be compromised — doesn’t hold up, Heed said.
Vancouver police Const. Jana Mcguinness acknowledged that the public is very concerned about safety following Cheema’s murder.
“We know that residents living in this neighbourhood have been shaken by this brazen, gang-related shooting,” Mcguinness said Thursday. “It was very possible that an innocent person could have been caught up in the violence.”
Eileen Mohan — whose 22-yearold son Chris was one of two innocent victims in the 2007 Surrey Six slaying — agreed with Heed, 100 per cent.
Mohan said she has been “crusading” for a provincial-level website to identify dangerous gangsters ever since she lost her son.
“The RCMP said they wouldn’t do it because it would be a breach of privacy,” Mohan said.
“These gangsters are not accountable to the public at all, so why should we respect their Charter rights?” Mohan said. “They don’t care about society — you see all the broad-daylight killings. How much bloodshed will there be? We need to make these changes for future generations.”
B.C.’S Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act states that public safety and public interest can take precedence over privacy considerations on a case-by-case basis.
B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond told The Province that putting out gangsters’ photos is controversial in police circles.
“Some people feel it fuels further violence by identifying these people to their enemies, putting the public at risk,” she said, noting that gangsters are sometimes publicly identified. “Police, who are experts, use their skill and their judgment to determine what the best response is.
“Posters are used when experts in the field determine that is the best course of action.”
Heed noted that his former VPD colleague, Abbotsford police Chief Bob Rich, has already had “significant success” with aggressive gang suppression tactics, such as having police squad cars tail the notorious Bacon brothers in broad daylight.
Micheal Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said police must establish a “compelling public safety” argument case by case, not simply issue a blanket poster campaign.
“The role of a wanted poster is not effective unless they are rare,” said the BCCLA policy director.
“There are legitimate exceptions for public-safety concerns, but they need to be assessed on a case-bycase basis.”