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Expert links rising gang activity to Alberta’s economic boom

<p>Alberta’s boom has created a tough situation for city police forces who’ve become overwhelmed by exploding gang activity, says a criminal expert studying the movements of outlaw groups across the province.</p>




Alberta’s boom has created a tough situation for city police forces who’ve become overwhelmed by exploding gang activity, says a criminal expert studying the movements of outlaw groups across the province.





Gangs have become more organized and now reach their fingers deep into communities, fueled by an economic boom that brings increases in drug use and crime, according to William Pitt, a sociology professor at the University of Alberta.





“Since there is a lot of money in this province, organized criminal organizations, like the Hells Angels, are thriving in Alberta,” he says.





In Edmonton, the police have temporarily depleted their drug unit to one officer as a number of them have been moved to higher priority sections, he said.





Pitt’s comments come on the heels of a report by the Criminal Intelligence Service Alberta, which compiled annual statistics from city police forces and the RCMP.





The 20-page report, released last week, says property theft, drug distribution, gang violence and social dysfunction are all on the rise across the province.





Despite declines in many crime categories, a five-year trend points to an alarming increase in serious crimes, including a boom in the drug trade, the report states.





Drug addiction is also exploding across the province with an increase in calls for help to a 24-hour hotline run by the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC).





“Surely it has a lot to do with the amount of people that are moving (here),” said a co-ordinator for the hotline, who didn’t want her name published.















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  • Homicides have increased by 70 per cent in Alberta between 2000 and 2005, according to a report released by Criminal Intelligence Service Alberta.


 
 
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