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Friday, 15 July 2011

First Nations gang joins battle for turf in Nanaimo

18:13 |

Nanaimo RCMP continue to battle with organized crime as violent street gangs infiltrate Vancouver Island, looking to take control of illegal drug markets.

Police confirmed the presence of the First Nations street gang Redd Alert after the Nanaimo drug squad arrested Kevin Eric John, 32, regarded by police as a full-fledged member of the gang, last week.

Redd Alert joins the Red Scorpions and other gangs that have surfaced in the city in recent years, as each group tries to control turf formerly held by the Hells Angels.

The biker gang's clubhouse was seized in November 2007 under the order of the director of civil forfeiture and since then the gang has seemingly lost its grip on the drug market it once controlled.

Gangs such as the Red Scorpions, United Nations and Independent Soldiers have slowly infiltrated the city in the past few years, according to Cpl. Mike Moyer, E Division's gang awareness co-ordinator for aboriginal policing services.

"When there's a slowdown in the drugs on the street, gangs and other suppliers will move in to take advantage," he said.

The integrated gang task force has been monitoring Redd Alert since it formed in Edmonton during the mid-1990s.

Since then, the group has established a foothold in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and Moyer said it appears the gang is trying to do the same on the Island.

John was one of four people arrested last Friday following a police search of an apartment in the 1500 block of Boundary Crescent. All four were suspected of trafficking cocaine.

Police seized drug paraphernalia, evidence of cocaine use, a small amount of marijuana and Redd Alert colours at the apartment.

"Friday's arrest is not the first contact our members have had with Redd Alert in Nanaimo but it's the first arrest that I know of," Moyer said.

A 45-year-old woman was found in the apartment and taken into custody and later released on a promise to appear in court on charges under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act.

Besides John, Christopher David, 22, and Terry Aleck, a 21year-old woman, were charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of drug trafficking.

They have been released from custody and are scheduled to appear in court on July 26.

Both John and one other man, whose name surfaced during the course of the investigation but was not charged, have ties to the Redd Alert chapter in Kamloops, said Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Const. Gary O'Brien.

"The presence of Redd Alert in Nanaimo is not surprising given the lucrative drug market a city this size presents," said O'Brien. "These individual would be here for no other reason than to entrench themselves in the local drug trade through selling their product."

Like all criminal organizations, violence is not uncommon when Redd Alert becomes established in a community, said Moyer. The gang patterns itself after some of the black and Latino inner-city gangs of Los Angeles. Redd is an acronym and a play on words for "red Editorians [Edmontonians] doing dirt," said Moyer.

Moyer said although the gang has spread to B.C., "we are not yet seeing aboriginal gang problems here that we are seeing in other western Canadian provinces."


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