The readers of The Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer may not know it, but organized crime is affecting your lives right now, in one way or another.
What’s that, you say? Organized crime only exists in Godfather movies and cable TV shows that glorify drug culture? Not true.
Conservative estimates made by police forces in Canada after 2001 found that, generally, organized crime costs each Canadian $100 per year. When you factor in a population of 30 million people and inflation over the past 14 years, that’s a pretty rosy outlook for the average member of a criminal enterprise.
Who are these members of organized crime, and what organizations do they belong to? It won’t be a Sicilian wearing a tuxedo, carrying a Tommy gun in a violin case. In Canada, especially in Alberta, your typical gang member will more likely be riding a Harley Davidson and wearing a Hells Angels patch on his back, or driving an Acura and sporting a tattoo or some other mark identifying him as the property of a gang from Edmonton, which may have roots to cities like San Francisco, Vancouver, Hong Kong or Taipei.
But organized crime can come a lot closer to home than Edmonton. Most rural Albertans don’t understand how gang influence can affect their community.
Several Alberta communities have seen members of an Edmonton street gang called the White Boy Posse sneaking into town. White Boy Posse are neo-Nazi skinheads in nature and drug-dealing businessmen in practice. The WBP focus on profit through drug dealing, and their recruitment efforts are aided by popular TV shows like “Breaking Bad,” which glorifies drug culture. In practice, WBP, which RCMP have stated in the past have been linked to the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle club, tend to focus on drugs like crystal meth: cheap, easy to produce and attractive to rural victims who may not necessarily have access to more expensive drugs like coke and heroine.
WBP drug dealers, attempting to establish themselves in rural communities along the Rocky Mountains over the last few years, like to make money by selling drugs; the best way to sell drugs is to create addicts as your customers return again and again. Becoming addicted to drugs like crystal meth not only affects the addict, but has an emotional cost to the victim’s family, and a financial cost to society as the victim is less likely to contribute positively and instead ends up costing the healthcare system as some sink deeper into their addiction.
WBP activities can affect Albertans more directly too. A few years ago several WBP alleged hitmen were sent to settle a drug debt, and since drug dealers can’t call 9-1-1 when they get ripped off, violence is usually the only way they can recover their money or illegal property. Well, several of these WBP gunmen went to a residential address and gunned down the woman who answered the door. Turns out these morons had the wrong address and killed an innocent woman. They were at the wrong house.
Also, WBP drug addicts also impact the legal system, as break and enters, prostitution and other crimes addicts engage in to feed their habits keep them in the court system.
Some rural Alberta organized crime isn’t as glamorous as WBP activities. Over the past five years RCMP and other police across the province have regularly broken up organized theft rings. In central Alberta a couple of years ago, a yard west of Red Deer was raided and found to be full of stolen property, including stolen snowmobiles that were still in their original shipping crates.
Shoplifting has also become an activity of professionals. Loss prevention officers across Alberta are well aware of skilled and motivated shoplifters who can walk out of a grocery store, for instance, with thousands of dollars in prime rib beef to sell, no questions asked.
Vehicle theft is another crime that affects all of us, directly or indirectly. Some vehicles are stolen by amateurs for joyrides, but plenty are stolen by professionals who sell the vehicle to chop shops that break it down for the lucrative parts market.
These crimes affect everyone, because businesses that are victimized have insurance policies to protect them; those costs end up affecting everyone who has insurance.
How can Albertans combat organized crime? Organizations like Citizens on Patrol and Rural Crime watch are an excellent start. Keep your community safe by keeping an eye on it. Also, get to know your neighbours so a fabric of community is created.
Practice basic crime prevention strategies. Don’t leave your car unlocked, and don’t leave valuables like wallets and tablets in plain sight. Get a security system for your house, and always lock your garage.
Send a message to organized crime in Alberta that it’s not welcome in your community.