The escalation of gang violence in Vancouver, beginning in January 2009, is alleged to have been caused by disruptions to the supply of illegal drugs resulting from the crackdown by the Mexican government against the drug cartels there, who supplied cocaine to British Columbia in return for marijuana. This reduced the profits of the Independent Soldiers (IS) and their sometime allies the United Nations gang. The IS are primarily an Indo-Canadian gang while the United Nations gang is made of a multitude of different ethnic groups. More recently, Chinese and Guatemalans and other various nationalities have been recruited. Both of these gangs' main modus operandi is gun running and smuggling marijuana known as BC Bud to the United States.
The cocaine trade became very profitable due to the ongoing Mexican Drug War. The Mexican Army has severely curtailed the ability of the Mexican drug cartels to move cocaine inside the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. government says the amount of cocaine seized on U.S. soil dropped by 41 percent between early 2007 and mid-2008 and claims this is due to this pressure. The price in Vancouver has increased from $23,300 to almost $39,000 a kilo.
The cocaine trade has been the domain of the IS and UN's rival Red Scorpion street gang and the Hells Angels biker gang. As the IS and UN gangs moved in, the Red Scorpions hit back leading to an all out gang war.
Progress and escalation
By the end of the first quarter of 2009, more than 20 people had been killed and 40 wounded. The Hells Angels had primarily stayed out of the fighting up to this point while the IS gang was busy trying to protect its turf from the resurgent Buttar Gang after police in April 2009 functionally dismantled the rival Sanghera Crime Group after a series of arrests which created a vacuum allowing the Buttar gang to expand its operations and encroaching on the IS for its marijuana monopoly.
But most of the wounded and killed had been members of the Red Scorpions and UN gangs who were engaged in a brutal tit-for-tat turf war. The carnage between the UN and the Red Scorpions was believed to stem from the fatal shootings of six men in an apartment in the suburb of Surrey in 2007. Dozens of other slayings followed, many of them retribution killings and commercial disputes between the UN and the associated members of the Red Scorpions, the Bacon brothers who used to be members of the UN gang. But the conflict between these gangs escalated dramatically after the UN gang along with the IS gang decided to move into the cocaine trade, a long domain of the Red Scorpion gang.
After initially failing to announce that they had a gang war on their hands, on March 6, 2009, the Vancouver police announced there is a gang war after making several arrests. In particular they have gone after the leadership of the UN and Red Scorpion gangs and closely monitoring the Bacon Brothers after they survived a rash of hits against them. In May, police arrested eight senior U.N. members, including the leader, Iraqi immigrant Barzan Tilli-Choli, on charges of conspiracy to kill the Bacon brothers, while Dennis Karbovanec a member of the Red Scorpions pleaded guilty to previous crimes. Since the arrest of the leadership, there has been a drop in violence but occasional violence does continue.
Gang-related homicides and shootings
Gang shootings were the subject of intense media coverage in Vancouver in 2009. These events include:
20: Jamie Bacon's car shot at while driving through Abbotsford. Bacon was the subject of an unusual public warning issued by police earlier this year, suggesting anyone dealing with him could be at risk.
22: Forty-two-year-old man wounded in an apparent robbery at Abbotsford marijuana grow-operation.
23: Two men wounded by shots fired outside Abbotsford home.
24: Occupant of a Surrey home wounded by early-morning shots fired through door.
27: Andrew (Drew) Cilliers, 26, shot outside a home in what appeared to be a targeted attack.
29: William Peter Canning, 65, New Westminster resident, found slain in an east Vancouver apartment building.
2: James Ward Erickson, 25, shot in an apartment in Surrey.
3: Brianna Helen Kinnear, 22, found shot in a truck in Coquitlam.
3: Raphael Baldini, 21, shot in a busy parking lot in Surrey.
6: William Wayne Cloud, 19, fatally stabbed in a house.
6: Kevin LeClair, 26, Surrey man shot in the parking lot outside a Langley grocery store.
8: Man wounded in shooting in west-side Vancouver parking lot.
11: Nicholas Gordon Smith, 24, shot in the basement of a house.
12: Shots fired at a Burnaby home, no suspect found. Some suspect Babez Crew was involved.
16: Driver wounded after shots fired at SUV outside Surrey strip club; police later arrest five people, charge two with attempted murder.
16: Nicole Alemy killed in Surrey while driving husband's car with four-year-old son in back seat.
17: Shane Alan Messent, 24, shot while committing a home invasion.
22: Man known to police wounded in shooting in east Vancouver.
26: Cory Stephen Konkin, 30, shot in his car in Maple Ridge.
27: Man shot outside Surrey home in what police call targeted attack.
2: Sukhwinder Singh Dhaliwal, 32, found fatally shot.
3: Young woman killed and man wounded in shooting at Burnaby apartment.
3: Sunil Mall, 27, shot in his car in East Vancouver.
3: Shots fired in drive-by shooting outside suspected drug house in Surrey.
5: Man shot in drive-by shooting at Vancouver home.