News / Kitchener

Waterloo police unit maintains watch on seven street gangs in the region

WATERLOO REGION — Waterloo Regional Police’s special guns and gangs unit is actively monitoring up to seven street gangs who call the region their home.

The officers also monitor up to 350 people who are associated with the gangs, said Sgt. Andy Harrington, a supervisor who oversees five detective constables in the unit, which started in 2007.

And many of the gangs’ activities focus on the trafficking of illicit drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and crystal methamphetamine.

“We have routine investigations of heroin,” he said. “There is a tonne of heroin.”

Police say the street gangs run along ethnic lines, as well as hailing from high-density neighbourhoods.

“There is a youth multicultural gang phenomenon,” said Harrington, referring to youth gangs made up of young men whose families hail from other countries.

He’s not seeing youth segregating themselves from other nationalities, but membership involves all groups.

“They are not discriminatory. They are all together,” he said.

For the youth, the use of social media is the main means by which the street gangs publicize their allegiances, Harrington said.

“Groups are fluid and they come and go,” said Harrington, referring to the Slingers who were present in the region.

Howard Joel Munroe, 20, a black man, was stabbed to death in Victoria Park on Victoria Day weekend in 2001by members of the Slingers, a white street gang.

A street gang is a group of three or more members that have a common symbol or identifier and have found a common purpose.

Harrington said street gangs usually start with youth and when the boys become men, the adults are more sophisticated.

A homegrown street gang that police spent months investigating was the Luminati Brotherhood. In raids in 2010, 19 people were arrested for their involvement in the trafficking of heroin, crystal methamphetamine, ecstasy and pot.

Luminati members work chunky rings sporting the group’s name and clubhouse in Puslinch Township and sported club tattoos.

A classic criminal organization is the biker outlaw motorcycle gang such as the Hells Angels, which has a chapter in Kitchener. These members are monitored by a provincial police biker unit.

Harrington said members of other chapters of the Hell Angels, including London, Hamilton and Niagara live in the region.

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