Operation Escarpin: coordinated dawn raids targeted dope dealers with biker ties
By Robert Frank
At 6 a.m. Feb. 27, 300 Laval, North Shore and Lanaudière region police, together with their counterparts from the Sûreté du Québec and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, simultaneously arrested 37 suspected drug dealers throughout the region. They dubbed the raid Operation Escarpin.
They seized $180,000 worth of cannabis, $78,000 in cash, $70,000 in synthetic drugs and a similar amount of cocaine, $28,000 worth of crack, $9,000 worth of hashish and $3,000 worth of the date rape drug GHP.
Police also confiscated two illegal, sawed-off shotguns, as well as other weapons that the owners had no permit for, as well as cash counting machines, about 100 cellphones, a boat worth $30,000 and a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle.
“The combined regional squad had been investigating a group of narcotics traffickers since September 2012,” Laval police Sgt. Frédéric Jean told The Suburban in an interview. “Police officers from Laval were among those involved in the investigation and execution of the search warrants, as well as the Laval tactical squad.”
“They sold cocaine, crack, cannabis and contraband tobacco. We have intelligence that this group is highly structured and has ties with criminal biker gangs.”
More ominously, police also arrested a civilian employee of the St. Jérôme police department whom they suspect was a mole, feeding inside information to the gang.
Sgt. Jean explained that information that investigators gleaned from computer hard drives, flash memory drives and accounting documents that they also seized during the raids, tipped them to the alleged infiltrator.
“This person had access to police databases,” he said. “That’s why the searches were conducted simultaneously.”
“We are analyzing this information to gain a better understanding of how this group operated and how it is linked to organized crime.”
Penalties for breach of trust can entail prison terms as long as 14 years.
“This group had been operating for a number of years and did not hesitate to use intimidation and violence to push away competitors or individuals acting individually who wanted to sell drugs in that area.”
“An operation of this size was a first for us, and only possible because the combined squad permits police officers from different jurisdictions to collaborate,” Sgt. Jean added.
Federal government funds permitted the various municipal police forces to establish the combined squad to fight street gangs. Senior police officers from towns throughout the region are based at Laval police headquarters. Besides contributing its detectives, Laval police provide surveillance, forensic, tactical and canine specialists to support the combined squad.
As part of a series of federal austerity measures, the funding for the combined regional squad is slated to dry up at the end of the current federal fiscal year, March 31.
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