The provincial government, in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, made it official Wednesday in Gander — they are working together to make the province a safer place.
Justice Minister Darin King, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills and MHA for Gander Kevin O’Brien, RCMP Assistant Commissioner and Commanding Officer Tracy Hardy, and RNC Chief of Police Robert Johnston announced the official launch of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit — Newfoundland and Labrador (CFSEU-NL).
The CFSEU-NL is the result of the three groups partnering to strengthen the fight against child exploitation, illegal drugs and organized crime in the province. In Budget 2013 in March, the provincial government committed $1 million to the task force, and according to Minister King, Wednesday’s announcement makes it official the task force is operational.
“Today, we are announcing the unit is up-and-running…both forces have combined their current resources as well as the $1 million investment we announced in the budget…this marks the official ‘we’re here and we’re coming to get you if you’re involved in crime in the province’,” said Minister King.
According to RCMP Superintendent William Malone, who is the officer in charge of CFSEU-NL, the unit consists of 40-plus crime analysts, investigators, computer forensic specialists, other specialized members of both law enforcement agencies and support staff, and will be responsible for the province. RNC Staff Sgt. Joe Gullage is second-in-command.
“The people of this group will be working throughout the province…we will be working files west of the overpass,” said Superintendent Malone, noting the majority of the investigators are based in St. John’s, but their suitcases are packed and ready to go when needed.
“Wherever the criminals are in the province, I guess they are on notice…our job is to keep them off balance and to let them know their activities are not welcomed in the province.”
That’s good news to Gander Mayor Claude Elliott, who has seen his town during the past few months experience an increase in criminal activity, as well as the set up of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club within its commercial downtown district.
“I’m very pleased to welcome everyone here for this announcement, and as we know there has been a lot of activity taking place in Gander over the past few months, and as a community we’re not going to sit back and just take this…we’re going to fight back,” said Mayor Elliott. “Those people are not welcomed here…they have no role to play in this community and bring nothing to this community only grief, and we don’t need that…this is a great place to live and raise a family…we’re going to fight this and take steps in the jurisdiction in which we have to make their lives miserable. We are in this together…and I want to let the RCMP and RNC know we are going to be fighting back, and I think it’s something that every municipality in this province is going to have to get aggressive and fight…crime is all of our concern.”
The location of the announcement was definitely not lost on anyone in attendance, including Minister O’Brien, who has lived in Gander since the early ‘70s, and where he and his wife Rhonda raised three daughters.
“We’ve seen a heightened level of crime here in Gander over the last two months or so, and we want to send a clear message that those people aren’t welcome in our community…and neither are they welcome in any community in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Minister O’Brien.
“People are welcome as law-abiding citizens, but if they are going to bring an element of crime we don’t want in this province…we’re now here to combat that.”
Chief Johnston said he is more than pleased with the launch of the CFSEU-NL, and is expecting positive results from the joint task force.
“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary have a long history in working together, and the making of the CFSEU-NL and the investment of over a million dollars by our government has ensured significant resources will be available to conduct complex investigations into drug trafficking, internet child exploitation and organized crime,” said Chief Johnston. “Criminals involved in these illegal activities do not subscribe to police, provincial, national or international borders, and due to our new reality, police services such as the RCMP and RNC must, and I stress must, work in partnership. The CFSEU-NL is an important initiative that will help to successfully cut significant challenges we face in this province today and into the future.”
A part of this success, according to CO Hardy, will be because of the dedication of those in the unit.
“The CFSEU-NL is a cohesive group of dedicated men and women from both the RNC and RCMP who will work tirelessly to ensure safer communities for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” she said. “This will be accomplished by disrupting serious and organized crime through investigative excellence and intelligence-led, integrated policing.”
While the CFSEU-NL was only just officially launched Wednesday, Superintendent Malone said it has already been, and is currently, involved in several investigations, including Operation Snapshot 2 in June. This investigation targeted those involved in child sexual abuse image networks in Atlantic Canada, and resulted in the arrest of 22 men on various pornography charges, including nine men in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Newfoundland and Labrador is no different than any other province in Canada…with economic prosperity you get the good, bad and ugly, and unfortunately, we’ve been getting some of the ugly things as of late,” he said. “It’s our role to focus on that, as well as ensuring people aren’t living in fear of crime.”