The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) has made a major drug seizure, with a bulk value of nearly $3 million, in Richmond and Vancouver — a sign that there isn’t a supply shortage in B.C. despite COVID-19.
“There’s a lot of street drugs still available, and groups are changing the way that they do business in order to get around what’s happening in our current pandemic crisis, and still provide the supply that people need on the streets. This is a lot of drugs,” said Insp. Bill Spearn, head of the VPD’s organized crime section.
“Organized crime groups and gangs are very good at adapting, and coming up with new methods to smuggle this stuff into the country, to produce it, distribute it, and, judging by the amount of drugs we have in front of us today, they’ve adapted pretty well.”
Spearn said he thinks a lot of the drugs are still coming in through the port and borders, and much can also be produced locally — and that domestic production can increase when smuggling routes are shut down.
The items seized include:
- Eight handguns, all 9-mm semi-automatics;
- Two 50-round drum magazines for 9-mm ammunition;
- 20 kilograms of what is believed to be fentanyl, with a bulk street value of $1.6 million;
- One kilogram of cocaine with a bulk street value of $60,000;
- Six kilograms of methamphetamine with a bulk street value of $90,000;
- 13 kilograms of cannabis shatter with a bulk street value of $500,000;
- 320 kilograms of cannabis bud with a bulk street value of $700,000;
- 26 kilograms of cutting agent used to dilute street drugs, with a bulk street value of $26,000.
The seizures were made following a four-month-long investigation — launched at the beginning of the year — into the flow of illicit opioids into Metro Vancouver.
The investigation, known as Project Transit and headed by VPD's organized crime section, targeted offenders involved in the distribution of illegal opioids.
Five search warrants were executed April 29 as a result of the investigation, one at a commercial warehouse in Richmond and four in southeast Vancouver, including at a house, two commercial units, and an apartment.
Eight kilograms of fentanyl were seized from the Richmond warehouse, according to VPD.
“This was a collaborative effort involving officers from the organized crime section, emergency response team and patrol officers leading to this substantial seizure of drugs,” said Spearn.
“We believe this will have a significant effect on the drug trade and will impact the health and safety of the local community.”
Eight people were arrested but have since been released without charges while the investigation continues. Spearn said charges will be recommended in the coming months and that "a few" of the suspects were known to VPD.
VPD wouldn’t say if the suspects were linked to a specific gang or organized crime unit, but Spearn said that anyone with access to this amount of illicit drug supply “is going to be connected in one way or another.”
While the bulk value of the drugs is estimated to be $3 million, Spearn said the street value would be “significantly higher,” but was unable to provide an exact figure without Health Canada lab results on the drugs — such as the 20 kilograms of presumed presumed fentanyl — which are pending.
“This is probably the most fentanyl I’ve seen in one spot in my 24 years of drug enforcement,” Spearn said.
That drug continues to be at the core of the ongoing opioid crisis, said Spearn, which has led to the deaths of over 6,100 British Columbians since 2014.