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NWEST – NATIONAL WEAPONS ENFORCEMENT SUPPORT TEAM

Inspector Rob Rothwell attended deps this morning and spoke about the alarming proliferation of firearms on the street, a safety concern to the police, but also to the public.  The increase is tied to criminal activity – organized crime and gangs.  There is a willingness among the criminal element to arm themselves, which translates into a willingness to use the weapons and contributes to a “gangster” or “tough guy” image. We’re seeing the weapons being used for domination, in hostile situations that may arise out of physical confrontations outside restaurants and bars. 

Analysis shows that seized firearms are purchased lawfully and then smuggled in to Canada, where firearm traffickers then sell them to criminals. The firearms are often purchased with marijuana – from the industrial, large and illegal organized crime grow-ops – and are of high quality.
 
Inspector Rothwell also spoke about the new Firearms Interdiction Team that will be formed within the next few weeks.  The team will gather intelligence, analyze data and source out informants.
 
Detective Constable Martin Bruce displayed examples of firearms favoured by the criminal element that have been seized.  Martin is a member of NWEST – The National Weapons Enforcement Support Team.  He represents the municipal police in the Lower Mainland and there is an RCMP officer working alongside him.  NWEST was formed in 2001 by the Minister of Justice as a support for front line police officers involved in firearm investigations.  They assist with firearms identification, analysis, expert court witnesses, training and lectures.  They also identify trends in smuggling and weapons trafficking and have a good relationship with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Vancouver.

Stats

  • 94% of the firearms seized in Vancouver in 2002 originated in Washington State (where little or no documentation is required to purchase a firearm)
  • 100% of those firearms were legally owned there at one time
  • 41 firearms were seized in 2002
  • 45 firearms were seized in the first 10 months of 2003
  • 90% were handguns
  • In 2002, there were 17 incidents in which weapons were seized from organized crime figures
  • In the first 10 months of 2003, there were 13 such incidents

Incidents Where Firearms Were Used

  • grow rip defence
  • road rage
  • street confrontations (one recently in the downtown core)
  • nightclubs – shootings

Where Firearms Are Recovered

  • roadblocks (Counterattack)
  • clubs (members on licensed premise checks recover firearms from the floor)
  • traffic stops

Types of Guns Recovered

  • Glock 9mm – restricted (Manufactured Austria – Imported into the USA) is the favourite
  • Glock Model 17 9mm (17 mag)
  • Ruger P94 .40 calibre (11 mag)
  • Sawed-off Shotgun  DBL  12 gauge
  • AK47 Folding Stock 7.62 mm (30 round mag)
  • Tech 9 9mm (32 round mag)

Detective Constable Martin Bruce stated that firearms are easy to buy and range in price from $300 to $700.