What do Al Capone, Osama bin Laden and a handful of rental properties in the VLA neighbourhood of Prince George have in common?
Creative police work.
As Mark Nielsen's story in Friday's Citizen illustrates, the Prince George RCMP aren't just chasing bad guys, they're going after them literally where they live. For common criminals, home is also a base for operations, where weapons, cash and drugs are kept.
As Sean Connery's Malone character in The Untouchables tells Kevin Costner's Eliot Ness, "Mr. Ness, everybody knows where the booze is." The way to hurt criminals is to hurt their business by taking away their weapons, their cash and their drugs, so the Prince George RCMP are working the properties where criminal business is conducted frequently.
Cpl. Craig Douglass made a poignant observation to Nielsen and Citizen photographer Brent Braaten about the VLA, which is unfairly labelled as "The Hood," among many city residents. In the same way that police officers spend the vast majority of their time dealing with a small but well-known minority of the population, so it is with properties.
"It's the few that give this area a bad reputation but most of the people here want the community to be safer and want us to contribute and help," Douglass said.
The RCMP are working to close down the handful of VLA properties that are the source of most of the complaints. They are using the criminal code to get the criminals but they are working with city bylaw officers and using municipal bylaws to deal with the properities. Abandoned buildings are being boarded up and landlords are being held more accountable for the state and security of their properties.
Capone, the Prohibition-era gangster, was not sent to jail for murder or extortion but for tax evasion. Once investigators were able to show that Capone enjoyed a substantial income but was not paying tax, it was a relatively simple matter of sending him to jail for eight years. Doing so proved literally that crime doesn't pay. Following the money put Capone behind bars and following the bad guys home gives Prince George RCMP another tool to drive criminals out of business.
As Peter Bergen's book Manhunt shows adamantly but the film Zero Dark Thirty doesn't clearly state, it wasn't the torture of terrorists that led to bin Laden, it was the less glamourous but more patient and effective police work of following known associates, tracking financial transactions and keeping a close eye on internal communications.
Whether it's the global war on terror, the war on organized crime in Chicago or the war on petty criminals and their gangs in Prince George, history illustrates that a show force is only half the battle. Going after their business and where they live with inspired police work and thoughtful application of the law also gets the job done.