Gang war worrying Vancouver ahead of 2010 Games

Fri Mar 6, 2009 4:04pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A surge in gang violence is hurting Vancouver's image as it prepares to host the 2010 Olympics, the city's mayor said on Friday.

Police publicly acknowledged for the first time that the Vancouver area was in the midst of a "gang war" between several organized crime groups fighting over the illegal drug market.

While the violence is still tame compared to that seen in other parts of the world, it is not something Vancouver is used to dealing with, Mayor Gregor Robertson said.

"Vancouver has never been known for this, so in terms of our international reputation it is a problem, and we need to bear down and deal with it," Robertson told a news conference announcing another arrest of a gang leader.

The city on Canada's Pacific coast will host the Winter Games in February 2010.

"It is very unfortunate that we are beginning to look like most of the big cities around the world, certainly in the United States, that deal with significant violent crime," he said.

Gang-related shootings have become an almost daily occurrence in Vancouver and surrounding suburbs since mid-January, but police have refused to officially describe it as a gang war.

"Well let's get serious. There is a gang war and it's brutal," Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu said.   Continued...