VANCOUVER, B.C. – Vancouver police say they’ve made a huge dent in the gang warfare that’s plaguing the region by arresting six people and dismantling a crime group they say is responsible for much of the gun violence.
A warrant has been issued for a seventh man on four counts of firearms charges.
“We’ve identified the highest levels of people who are engaged in gang violence,” Chief Jim Chu said Thursday of a police initiative called Project Rebellion.
Police say the six men in custody are all part of the Sanghera crime group, which they’ve previously said is involved in a vicious gang war partly responsible for hundreds of shootings in recent years and almost four dozen already this year.
Police had a half dozen guns they’ve seized during the investigation on display for reporters. They also screened a dramatic video they shot of three of the men being arrested outside their homes.
Officers with guns drawn took a barefoot Bobby Sanghera, 31, into custody Wednesday while Jaspreet Virk, 20, was arrested the same day in a car as gun-toting officers yelled at him to exit the vehicle and get on the ground.
The video also showed Charnjit Rangi, 31, swearing profusely at officers as he was hauled into a police wagon last January.
Three other men were also arrested Wednesday, and police have issued a warrant for 20-year-old John Holler.
There have been 21 confirmed shooting deaths in the Metro Vancouver since mid-January, and police across the region have announced several arrests in recent weeks.
In total, 69 charges related to firearms offences, drugs and assault have been laid against the seven men police identified Thursday.
Police have said two other members of the Sanghera group were arrested in March. Earlier this month, an appeal court judge upheld the lower court’s decision to keep them behind bars pending trial – something police and politicians have been calling for as the body count has climbed.
“These decisions established a valuable precedent and I know that Crown counsel will be using these court decisions to support the detention of these additional accused gang members,” Chu said.
He said police will be making more arrests as part of Project Rebellion, launched last October.
“Let me make this clear: Police in the Vancouver region are taking a very hard line against gangs,” Chu said.
“If you are involved in gang violence, we will find you. It may not be today or tomorrow but you should know that we will not rest, we will not give up.”
Deputy Police Chief Doug LePard said gang members in the Vancouver area often work for various groups, making investigating them a challenge.
“The members often move freely back and forth among the gangs doing deals with whoever will hire them and they attract a variety of enemies along the way and that generates violence,” he said.
In announcing a previous round of gang arrests in March, Chu and Insp. Mike Porteous, head of Project Rebellion, said Vancouver’s southeast sector has been the turf for a vicious battle between the Sanghera group and a gang they call the Buttar group.
The two are killing each other over drug profits and territory, police said.
At the time, police said they’d arrested Udham Singh Sanghera, 58, the purported leader of the Sanghera group.
Porteous said Thursday that 167 charges have been laid against over 20 gangsters as part of Project Rebellion.
“We have dismantled the entire Sanghera crime group, which we anticipate should stabilize violence within southeast Vancouver,” he said. “Their presence out there has caused a lot of shootings over the last few years.”
Earlier this month, police announced arrests in a mass killing of six men found dead in a Surrey, B.C., apartment building in October 2007. Police said the men arrested were members of a gang called the Red Scorpions.
And last week, police announced the arrests of three men on charges of conspiring to kill three brothers police allege are the leaders of the Red Scorpions gang.