Gang violence could spread: experts

A car-bombing, a downtown gunfight, a targeted drive-by killing outside a restaurant.

VANCOUVER — A car-bombing, a downtown gunfight, a targeted drive-by killing outside a restaurant.

They are all hallmarks of Vancouver-style gang violence but it was on the streets of Prince George, B.C., that these scenes have unfolded over the past year or so.

And one gang expert says they’re just a taste of what the northern hub and other B.C. cities might experience in coming years.

Communities such as Prince George, Kelowna and Kamloops, even small centres like Fort St. John, face a threat of increased violence as gangsters look for green pastures away from increasingly hot big Canadian cities.

“It’s just a matter of time,” says Michael Chettleburgh, an author and private consultant on justice issues. “We’re going to see that in the next one to two years.”

Chettleburgh says there’s a rough equilibrium now among gangs operating outside the Vancouver area, but that could change if gangs from as far east as Toronto eye vulnerable new turf.

“We’ve got guys from Ottawa and Toronto going to Calgary, going to Edmonton,” he says. “They’ll start to look at Kelowna and all of these other cities with dollar signs in their eyes, and that’s when you see the violence.”

Both Prince George and Kelowna have new anti-gang Combined Forces Special Enforcement Units, thanks to the federal and B.C. government’s anti-gang counter-attack announced last winter.