About 120 criminal gangs operate in British Columbia. Some are notorious for their illegal activities and have become well-known to the public, but many others do their best to maintain a low profile and don't even have names.
The best-known gangs are not necessarily the most dangerous or most powerful, Supt. Pat Fogarty said in an interview. He's the police officer in charge of the Organized Crime Branch of B.C.'s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, which keeps tabs on the activities of gangs and their members and gets them behind bars when necessary.
Membership can be fluid and there are various levels of gang affiliation. Criminals may move between gangs, and gangs themselves come and go. It makes headlines when groups feud and the violence spills into the public streets, but gang members often collaborate as well.
The drug trade is their major area of operation for most criminal gangs, but they go where the money is.
"This is business to them," Fogarty told CBC News.
Gangs have been operating for over a century in Vancouver, according to the Vancouver police department, but "have become far more prevalent and visible in the last few decades." Some of the higher-profile groups active on Canada's west coast today are offshoots of international criminal organizations, while others are home-grown. more