Organized Crime in Our Communities

Article excerpt


Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Organized crime is ripping the social fabric of Canada. It exacts a toll from every segment of society with a vast range of activities: drug trafficking; money laundering; fraud; smuggling, from cigarettes to people; theft, from computer software to motor vehicles for the global market; counterfeiting, from money to aircraft parts; violence; the corruption of both corporate and public employees; and the operation of legitimate businesses acquired with laundered money. Direct victims of organized crime pay with broken dreams, shattered lives, and bankrupt businesses. The rest of us pay tens of billions of dollars a year in greater costs for health care, insurance premiums and taxes; in reduced incomes and lost jobs; and in more insidious ways. But law enforcement agencies are making strides in fighting organized crime by attacking its Achilles' heel: greed. Speech to the Canadian Club of Vancouver, October 30, 1998.

"We who understand commercial crime know that the widow will likely suffer from the loss of her life savings to a fraud artist more deeply and long after she recovers from the shock of the loss of her purse to an armed robber. We also understand that corporations can fail and hundreds of innocent people lose their jobs because of corporate fraud as opposed to variety story robbery. We also know that mega fraud can even put a dent in the economy of a country, something no bank robbery will ever do. But we are lost souls crying in the wilderness at this point in time and we must accept that reality and move on, hoping that sanity will someday return."

Those, ladies and gentlemen, are the words of Steve Sherriff, a crown prosecutor in Toronto, and sum up -- as well as one paragraph can -- the devastating effects of organized crime.

It could be said that those of us who fight organized crime are lone voices because the effects of organized crime are not well understood by the Canadian public. But we are beginning to change that -- today's gathering is a significant step in that direction.

I cannot possibly detail all of the harm done, but will try to provide a thumbnail sketch and a few examples to give you a better understanding of how organized crime affects us all.

The tentacles of organized crime reach far and wide; its effects are pervasive and deadly. Legitimate business suffers because organized crime creates competing businesses using laundered money; society suffers through a loss of tax dollars; health care costs escalate; drug use among youth grows; telemarketing fraud steals life savings; property crimes escalate; violent crimes rise; humans are smuggled into the country illegally, and on and on.

Organized crime isn't about crooks competing with crooks over turf. It's about undermining the social fabric of Canada. It's your elderly mother getting a call to invest in something that isn't real; it's insurance fraud that makes all of our rates go up; it's a car stolen from your street.

Let me give you some examples.

The cost of drugs

The Hell's Angels rely on the sale of one drug, marijuana, to make huge profits. Aside from traditional growing operations, they use huge underground bunkers to grow these plants. In one bust alone, police found 10,000 plants -- enough to make anywhere up to 25 millions joints in one year. That would supply a lot of kids -- for it's those between the ages of 15 and 20 who are the largest users of marijuana. These young people are also enlisted to help traffick pot which sometimes opens the door to their own lives of crime.

And marijuana is not the so-called soft drug of the 60s. Today's product is on average 700 times more potent than its predecessor. As a matter of fact, the effects of one high-potency marijuana joint -- such as that grown in BC -- is similar to one dose of LSD. The sale of marijuana is a black market trade that results in community violence, theft of hydro, property crime, increased risk of cancer, and safety risks on the roads and in the workplace. …