The body of Chelsey Gauthier was found Aug. 16 in an isolated area of Mission. No one has yet been charged with her killing.

Abbotsford-Mission region records 10 murders in 2017

Census metropolitan area in running to be ‘murder capital of Canada’ again

Abbotsford-Mission was declared the “murder capital of Canada” for its homicide rates in 2008 and 2009 – at the height of a drug war between the Red Scorpions and UN gangs.

Now a different gang conflict is putting the area back in the running for the title.

The Abbotsford-Mission census metropolitan (CMA) area tallied 10 murders in 2017, one in Mission and nine in Abbotsford.

The local CMA is one of 33 included in Statistics Canada homicide rates formally released every July for the previous year.

The stats are based on the number of murders per 100,000 population. The Abbotsford-Mission CMA’s rate for 2017 is 5.53 (based on a population of 180,518 in the 2016 census).

The only other CMA across the country that could top the local CMA, according to preliminary figures, is Thunder Bay, Ont., with a rate of 5.8.

This compares to a national average in 2016 of 1.68.

The Abbotsford-Mission CMA was at the top of the list for its 2008 rate, when it had 10 homicides (four in Mission), and again in 2009, when there were nine (all in Abbotsford).

Many of those were gang-related killings related to the battle for drug turf between the Red Scorpions – then headed by the notorious Bacon brothers of Abbotsford – and the UN Gang.

Police at the time said initiatives focused on preventing gang violence, combined with the arrests or deaths of several key gangsters, resulted in a drop in those homicide numbers in the ensuing years.

Between 2010 and 2015, there were no more than four murders in any given year. In 2011, there were none.

But a new gang war began to emerge in late 2014, when 18-year-old Harwin Baringh was shot and killed while in his vehicle on Sparrow Drive in west Abbotsford.

The following year, the Abbotsford Police Department began talking about a conflict between two opposing groups, primarily made up of young South Asian men.

Police dubbed it the “Townline Hill conflict” – after the area of west Abbotsford where the majority of the violence and drive-by shootings were occurring.

As the conflict progressed, police indicated another gang war was underway, and more targeted killings began occurring.

Last year, the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) said the local issues were part of a bigger regional problem, which they now identify as the “Lower Mainland gang conflict.”

That conflict reached a peak last year in Abbotsford, with seven of the murders being attributed to gangs or drugs.

Sgt. Casey Vinet said the escalation in gang activity and homicides is “very concerning” to the APD, given the threat it poses to public safety.

“We are in a very bad period right now,” he said.

He said gang violence tends to come in waves and, although police have a “good handle of what’s going on in the region,” preventing violence and holding the players accountable is challenging.

Vinet said one of the barriers is a lack of co-operation from witnesses and victims.

He said the APD is undertaking, or continuing, several initiatives aimed at prevention, intervention and suppression.

These steps include gang-and-drug talks to every Grade 8 student in the district, after-school programming and support for at-risk kids.

As well, the APD will soon be forming a gang crime unit, with a focus on intervening and suppressing gang activity on a local level, Vinet said.

He said the APD will also continue to work with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and other agencies on investigations and prevention.

Vinet said it’s hoped that a combination of tactics brings a reversal to the homicide numbers, as they did following the spike in 2008 and ‘09.

“No one approach by itself will solve this issue,” he said.

TEN MURDER VICTIMS

MISSION:

– Aug. 16: Body of Chelsey Gauthier, 22, of Abbotsford found in isolated area near Sylvester Road and Dale Road. She had been reported missing on July 30.

ABBOTSFORD:

– Feb. 20: Satkar Sidhu, 23, shot on Steelhead Court.

– March 3: Body of Joseph Kellington, 24, found on Ross Road after he had been missing since Jan. 29.

– March 24: Jaskarn Lally, 20, shot at home in 3500 block of Chase Street.

– May 31: Nektar Pardalis, 41, found in garage of home on Cameron Crescent.

– July 4: Clarence Crothers, 62, found dead in his apartment on Braun Avenue. Jeffrey Charles Halicki, 50, has been charged with second-degree murder.

– Aug. 4 – Jaspreet Sidhu, 18, shot on Oriole Crescent and crashed into house on George Ferguson Way.

– Aug. 31 – Sehajdeep Sidhu, 18, shot on Gladwin Road south of Huntingdon Road.

– Nov. 6 – Const. John Davidson, 53, shot while responding to a shots-fired call at a strip mall on Mt. Lehman Rd. Oscar Arfmann has been charged with first-degree murder.

– Dec. 28 – Alexander Blanarou, 24, found shot in field on Bates Road near Harris Road.

Just Posted

Suspects charged after police incident by golf course

Mission and Maple Ridge RCMP combined forces to arrest two men

Mobile complaint clinic coming to Langley Feb. 9

The B.C. Ombudsperson is touring cities, taking complaints against the provincial government

UPDATE: Tsunami warning cancelled for coastal British Columbia

Warning issued following 7.9 earthquake off Kodiak, AK

‘Restless night’ for Semiahmoo First Nation after tsunami warning

Alaska earthquake puts Semiahmoo First Nation on notice

Mission RCMP recover 22 stolen vehicles and several firearms

Charges are still pending after police search two separate properties

Tsunami warnings 101: Canada

Here are some things to know about tsunami alerts in Canada and how they work

Andrew Scheer on trade, Trump and Trudeau

Canada’s Conservative leader begins three-day visit to B.C.

Victims restrained, sex toys and cash stolen from B.C. adult store

Armed suspects sought in adult store robbery

UPDATED: 10 Safeways in Lower Mainland to close

Locations in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, Richmond and Mission slated to shut

Vancouver Islanders ponder need for tsunami siren song

Alarm sounds in Port Alberni but not at the DND base in Esquimalt

Five charged in bid to shut pop-up pot market in Vancouver’s Robson Square

Marijuana flower, edibles, money and some weapons were seized as part of weekend raid

Babcock, Goyette and Smyth honoured at Order of Hockey in Canada

Mike Babcock, from Saskatoon, guided the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008

Bell Canada alerts customers who may be affected by latest data breach

Federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner said it had been notified

‘The tsunami alarm failed my household’: North Coast residents concerned over sirens, alerts

People living in northern communities share how they learned about Tuesday’s tsunami warning

Most Read