An image shared by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit showing the Brothers Keepers network. Red nodes represent gang members and black nodes represent non-gang-member associates. (CFSEU-B.C. image)

An image shared by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit showing the Brothers Keepers network. Red nodes represent gang members and black nodes represent non-gang-member associates. (CFSEU-B.C. image)

Police task force thwarts Brothers Keepers gang’s expansion into Nanaimo

Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit disrupts spread of drug trafficking network

A two-year operation by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. has disrupted a gang drug trafficking network’s expansion into Nanaimo.

According to a CFSEU-B.C. press release issued Tuesday, July 21, the Brothers Keepers task force helped co-ordinate investigations in jurisdictions across B.C. targeting the Brothers Keepers and its drug trafficking networks that allegedly included synthetic opioid distribution and violent gang activities.

According to police, the Brothers Keepers gang is made up of about a dozen core members who have criminal affiliations, networks and cells of various sizes. In all, more than 190 gang members and non-gang members formed a network with more than 920 connections across the province. Since 2017 the organization has been in conflict with rival gangs such as the Red Scorpions, Wolfpack, United Nations, Hells Angels and other groups and individuals that resulted in violence across the province, the release said.

The bigger the organization became as it expanded across B.C. and into Alberta and Ontario, the better its potential to recruit and expand its operations, which prompted the formation of the task force in early 2018 to monitor and co-ordinate police investigation efforts to target and disrupt its network and activities.

“Criminal groups and gangs like the Brothers Keepers continue to try and expand their illicit activities throughout the province and beyond B.C.’s borders. While the combined efforts thus far have resulted in the Brothers Keepers being significantly disrupted, we remain determined to continue our targeting of their, and other criminal networks’, illegal activities,” said assistant commissioner Michael LeSage, CFSEU-B.C.’s chief officer, in the press release.

Since its formation, the task force conducted 259 interdictions in 21 B.C. jurisdictions, ranging from motor vehicle act offences to advanced organized crime projects that resulted in the seizures of more than 30 kilograms of suspected fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine, possibly preventing “tens of millions of lethal doses,” the press release noted.

Analysis of intelligence gathered since the task force was created indicates there has been a 38.5-per cent decrease in combined gang-related homicides and attempted homicides from January 2017 to December 2018 and police are continuing to examine how that decline might be attributed to efforts to reduce gang-related harm and targeting the Brothers Keepers.

The press release says the task force’s efforts were successful in disrupting Brothers Keepers “intended expansion into the Nanaimo region,” but Sgt. Brenda Winpenny, CFSEU-B.C. spokeswoman, said police aren’t “so naive as to think that we’ve completely eliminated organized crime in Nanaimo or drug trafficking.”

She said the unit’s in-house research office and analysis system allowed its members to identify and target specific people who were attempting to operate in Nanaimo.

“We realized there was, because of their level of street-level violence and their criminality, there was a need to be able to target them and disrupt them and suppress from actually setting up and getting organized in Nanaimo, so we did that…” Winpenny said. “If it meant a Motor Vehicle Act infraction stop or arresting somebody on a prohib driver situation, we hounded them every day and made it extremely difficult to operate and set up.”

Winpenny said once police present their evidence to Crown counsel and have charges approved against suspects they will be in a better position to be more specific about their actions. She did not have information about when the task force began focusing on Nanaimo.

“Over the course of the past two years, numerous RCMP jurisdictions and municipal police agencies have been in collaboration with, and supported by, CFSEU-B.C.,” LeSage said. “A co-ordinated, integrated, and strategic approach to disrupting the potentially tragic and devastating impacts of their crimes, with deadly drugs like fentanyl, is critical to our collective efforts of keeping our communities safe.”

Winpenny said police also hope to help people to leave gangs.

“We have the first-of-its-kind gang intervention and exiting program housed within CFSEU and what that does is it enables us to support individuals that would want to get out of the gang lifestyle,” Winpenny said. “If there’s anyone who feels that they’ve been enticed into this lifestyle and are needing out, we certainly can assist with that and encourage people to reach out to us.”

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