Vancouver has as many guns on its streets as Seattle, the city’s police chief told council yesterday as he warned that police had burned through half of their $2.1-million criminal investigation fund in the first two months of 2009 to combat gang violence.

Vancouver Chief Const. Jim Chu, briefing council on a covert gang operation code-named Project Rebellion, said the recent spike in violence is because there are more gangsters, who are more heavily armed, than there have ever been.

The jump in investigative costs, about $1 million through January and February, was driven largely by round-the-clock surveillance teams and wiretaps on gang members.

“This isn’t a crisis,” said Vancouver Deputy Chief Doug LePard. “It’s pressure that we are dealing with in our budget right now. It’s of significant concern, but we are managing.”

LePard said the drain on human and budget resources was not sustainable, but was hopeful for additional funding from the provincial government.

The department, he added, has recovered roughly half a million from B.C.’s Integrated Gang Task Force and Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.

The number of “shots fired” complaints dropped almost in half, down to 16 between October 2008 and March 2009, the duration of Project Rebellion.

There were 29 shots over the same five-month period last year.

The project also resulted in 120 charges against 38 individuals, including Barzan Tilli-Choli, the alleged leader of the United Nation gang, who has been charged with attempted murder for a targeted hit on two people at T-Barz in Surrey.

Gang news

LePard said police would be making another major gang announcement in the next two weeks.

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