No longer on August long weekend, Kelowna’s biggest music festival is still expected to draw a large crowd from families, to teens, to unsavoury characters.
Gang members are presumed to arrive in the city this week in anticipation for Centre of Gravity (COG) and RCMP announced Monday that they will be out in full force looking for those who may be criminally involved.
“Gangsters are not wanted in Kelowna,” Cst. Kris Clark says.
The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of BC (CFSEU-BC) is the largest integrated policing agency in the province, and their sole focus is to target those who commit gang violence in communities. The CFSEU-BC alongside Kelowna RCMP will be at COG to enhance public safety initiatives during the upcoming weekend.
Sgt. Lindsey Houghton, with CFSEU-BC, says his team will join RCMP on the waters of Okanagan lake to enforce boating safety rules.
“We will be on the water to ensure those gangsters and their associates who may look to be avoiding police scrutiny and doing their dirty business on the water, will not do that. We will be there and we will be watching you,” says Houghton.
While no gang violence is anticipated during the COG weekend, CFSEU-BC will be in town and will make their presence known according to Houghton.
“We will have a zero tolerance for criminal activity,” explains Clark. “Our specialized units together with Combined Forces members will (work) to readily identify and target essentially gang members who come to Kelowna.”
Both Clark and Houghton recognize that gang members come from all over BC and Alberta to vacation in Kelowna, and during last year’s festival Clark says there was a proliferation of drug trafficking in the city.
“We have had a great relationship with the organizer (of COG), although you can’t stop every gang member from coming into a special event like that, you can put certain restrictions on them, in the searches that are being conducted to displaying of gang paraphernalia,” says Clark.
According to police most of the drug trafficking during the festival weekend happens outside the COG grounds.
Gang members who are expected to arrive in the city are known to CFSEU-BC by name, and gangsters know the officers names. However, police wouldn’t comment on which gangs members or how many will be present over the weekend, Houghton says it is just assumed gangsters will be in town.
“We use every single law, whether it is federal, provincial or common law duties at our disposal to let them know they are not welcome here,” explains Houghton.
The CFSEU-BC member goes on to say that it was only a few years ago in 2011, that one of the most violent gang related murders and attempted murders in BC’s history happened in Kelowna at the Delta Grand Hotel.
“I don’t think anyone here would have thought that the Grand Hotel in Kelowna would have been where the murder of Jonathan Bacon would have happened, but it did,” Houghton says. “We are here to not only prevent something like that from happening again but serve notice to gang members who might think to come to a place like Kelowna, that they better think twice - we are waiting for you.”
Houghton and Clark want the public to know they are prepared for the weekend and that if gang members so much as jay walk they will be stopped.
CFSEU-BC will also be present during Penticton’s Boonstock festival on the August long weekend, and will employ the same tactics used at the COG event alongside local RCMP members.