Outlaw motorcycle gangs have been experiencing “prolific” growth in the Halifax Regional Municipality, causing the RCMP to request additional officers to address the issue.
“They are not new to our area but they are growing, and because of that growth and their foothold in our area, we’re concerned to the point we need additional resources to address it,” RCMP Insp. Robert Doyle said in an interview on Wednesday.
Currently, there is a “significant presence” of the Gate Keepers, Sedition, Bacchus, and Hells Angels motorcycle gangs between the Musquodoboit Harbour and Fall River communities, according to a report presented to the Board of Police Commissioners on Monday.
Halifax District RCMP is requesting six additional full-time officers to patrol these areas, as well as Middle Sackville, Tantallon and Hubbards, do to a growing population. Doyle said motorcycle gang activity is not wanted or needed in those areas.
This comes 16 years after Halifax Regional Police busted a Hells Angels clubhouse in the Fairview neighbourhood, stripping the motorcycle gang of their presence in Halifax.
The gang relocation to communities outside the city comes as no surprise to Kelly Sundberg, leader of SAFE Design Council, a scholarly based crime reduction group.
“Same sort of thing happened out West also, where we see organized crime, the Hells Angels being one of them, establish themselves outside of major centres where there is a smaller police presence,” said Sundberg.
He gave the example of organized crime moving from Vancouver and setting up in places like Kelowna or Nanaimo. Those communities are close to the city, but they have smaller police forces with fewer resources. Sundberg said motorcycle gangs also establish themselves in rural areas for operational and logistical reasons.
“It’s about being able to warehouse or conduct criminal activity, so cutting coke or meth,” he said. “They do it in a remote area so they can see the police coming. They can do their criminal activity with no one bothering them and with very little interference. Some people may not know they are out there.”
Doyle said this why there is concern about officers working too much. Already this year, the Halifax RCMP is 23 per cent over its allocated overtime budget for 2017-18.
“That creates a concern for the health, well-being, morale and wellness of our employees,” said Doyle, who added that officers have been called in on their days off.
“That’s not healthy for them, our organization; that’s not healthy for the people we serve.”
The request for additional officers is not solely to stop the growth of motorcycle gangs. Doyle said it will help to lower emergency wait times, mobile mental health assistance and cyber crime calls.
The estimated annual cost for the six officers is $887,890. If the police board approves the request, it must then be approved by the province’s Justice Department and by Public Safety Canada.