Gangs spiking violence in Thunder Bay

Karen Edwards

THUNDER BAY – A recent series of stabbings in Thunder Bay on September 15 has city police once again stating their concern over escalating violent trends associated with southern Ontario gangs.
“We just had four people stabbed in one night,” said Det.-Insp. John Fennell with the Thunder Bay Police Service. 
“The level of violence is absolutely increasing, (police) are busy all day and all night.”
Over the last while, police have talked extensively of Toronto and Ottawa gangs and how their presence in the city has significantly increased several violent calls for police service.
Earlier this week, police announced the arrest of a 21-year-old man in connection to an aggravated assault following a night where officers responded to multiple stabbings and other serious incidents. Police are also currently investigating a shooting after shots were fired at a south-side motel over the weekend.
“They are definitely the contributor to a great deal of these events and a lot of the violence is generally related to the drug trade,” Fennell said. “Is it the Toronto guys alone? No, because now even here there are a lot of Thunder Bay people who are associated with them or are assisting them while they are here.”
The type of violence police are seeing is also different, Fennell said.
“Fights are now involving instruments, weapons, guns, baseball bats,” he said.
Not all calls police respond to are violent, but the ones that are, can be extremely time-consuming, police say.
“It’s unpredictable,” Fennell said. “In this case, it was a Tuesday night so who would suggest that a Tuesday night is going to go the way it did? Weekends are usually what most people think but not anymore, it can happen literally at any night.”
The volume at which calls come in can be challenging for officers to keep up with, Fennell said.
“The other night when we had four stabbings plus there was an investigation in regards to guns at a residence where there were seven people found. It is very manpower exhausting,” he said.
“When we are tied up with these matters there are other matters we can’t respond to.”
Fennell explained how hostility between organized criminal groups seems to be the reason behind the spike in violence.
“There are little wars going on about who is going to be allowed to sell here so the gangs are fighting over themselves and other people are trying to get in to make money so then one group is retaliating against another group,” Fennell said.
Police say the victims of these crimes are typically vulnerable people.
“I know it’s easy to say stay away from the drug trade but it is a very violent environment,” Fennell said. “There is always somebody out there that will want to take advantage of someone else.”
Although most of the violent activity doesn’t appear to involve the average citizen, police say they can still help by noticing drug trafficking activity in their neighbourhood and reporting it to police.
“Unfortunately the way they do business down south with weapons and guns is now here,” Fennell said. “Historically we didn’t have this problem but now we do.”