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Sunday, 4 January 2009

Two rival gangs of street-level drug dealers - Fresh Off the Boat (FOB) and the FOB Killers - have been fighting a pitched battle

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Police say two rival gangs of street-level drug dealers - Fresh Off the Boat (FOB) and the FOB Killers - have been fighting a pitched battle for the past six years that has been driving the city's rising homicide numbers."I think what is relatively clear is the violence we saw in 2008 between these two factions is retaliatory. One incident has, within weeks or months, led to a second incident," Deputy Chief Murray Stooke said this week."We are concerned that this back-and-forth retaliatory conflict will continue in 2009."Just over 14 hours after police were called to an unrelated homicide Thursday - the city's first of 2009 - at least two gunmen walked into Bolsa, a Vietnamese restaurant in the city's southeast - and opened fire at a table in the middle of the room. Police found one man dead, face down, in the parking lot outside, and two more corpses inside the restaurant.One of the victims was identified as Sanjeev Mann, a member of the FOB Killers gang.In December 2008, a deportation hearing was held for Calgarian Jackie Tran, who police have identified as a member of FOB Killers. The hearing provided a rare public airing of the circumstances that led to the deadly gang rivalry.

The two gangs emerged from a group of high school friends who dealt drugs together, but later went their separate ways. Conflicts between the two groups escalated quickly from knife fights to gun battles, endangering bystanders and claiming at least 15 lives in the past six years.In one recent violent episode, a gun battle between city gangsters erupted Nov. 16, 2008 in Calgary's Chinatown. Police said the shooting started when the occupants of an SUV pulled up alongside a car and opened fire, wounding several people. Two of the victims are allegedly associated with the local Fresh Off the Boat gang.Just weeks later, a drive-by shooting on a crowded crosstown highway prompted Calgary police to take the rare step of warning friends, family members and associates of known gang members that they'd become targets of retaliatory attacks."These two groups have escalated to the point now that if you are a member of one of these two gangs, if you're an associate, if you're a girlfriend, if you happen to be in the same vehicle with members from these two groups, you are at risk of being a victim of a shooting or a homicide," said acting Staff Sgt. Gord Eiriksson.Calgary police have identified 400 known gang members and associates who operate within the city.
"What we require to effectively address the issue is police resources," Stooke said.The Alberta government has been paying attention. This past fall, it announced a crackdown on gangs, promising to create four new teams of police officers and crime analysts.
Premier Ed Stelmach said the province will use federal cash to create 83 positions by April to tackle gangs that deal in drugs. He said Alberta will also pay for 100 extra front-line officers - not expected to hit the streets until after next year's budget.But throwing dozens of new police officers at Calgary gangs to suppress the violence won't permanently address the city's growing gang problem, said Mount Royal College justice studies chair John Winterdyk.While gang activity might be displaced for a time by a police blitz, he said, it returns the moment the extra resources dry up. To make real inroads into stopping gangs, police and lawmakers have to better understand the non-Canadian cultures many new gangsters come from - cultures with a widespread contempt for law enforcement stemming from widespread police corruption in their homelands.Economic opportunities also have to be created for young people who often feel disconnected from society and think they have few alternatives but to join gangs, he said.

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