Thanks to large-scale, successful operations like Project Entry, ALERT is gaining a reputation among outlaw motorcycle groups (OMGs) in Alberta — in the best possible way.
Project Entry — a joint investigation between ALERT and RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime (FSOC) — wrapped up in July 2018 and resulted in the seizure of five kilograms of cocaine, half a kilogram of the buffing agent phenacetin, cannabis resin, a handgun, multiple vehicles and motorcycles, and $13,000 in cash proceeds of crime.
Eleven people were arrested and charged with a total of 48 criminal offences. That includes one member of the Hells Angels, who was charged with instructing a criminal organization, and two members of the Dirty Few Lakeland chapter, a Hells Angels support club.
Cpl. Kevin Misiwich is a member of one of ALERT’s Organized Crime and Gang Enforcement (OCGE) teams, and served as the primary investigator on the file. He says that projects like Entry and the results they produce are getting noticed.
“It sends ripples throughout. During the investigation, we’d get information that these guys were wondering if it was local police or ALERT keeping tabs on them. Because the prevailing thought seemed to be, if it’s ALERT, they’re going to get you,” he said. “That’s the reputation ALERT is starting to get — you don’t want to come onto the radar here.”
While combatting OMGs across the province, ALERT teams are always looking out for information on their criminal activity. When such information emerged about drug trafficking that spanned from Edmonton and Spruce Grove to Cold Lake, Camrose and Grande Prairie, they knew they had something big on their hands.
But they knew from the get-go that the Hells Angels were involved, a group whose notoriety sets up its own challenges. “With that obviously comes some understanding that you’re not going at lower-tier criminals,” Misiwich said. “By virtue of knowing who they are, they know they’re on the radar for pretty much every law enforcement agency in the area, and they take steps to prevent being caught. That includes using technology; that includes isolating themselves or putting people in front of their criminal activity to insulate them from being caught.”
With a little bit of luck and a lot of patience, the team managed to build up a relationship with the main players in the case. That paid off later on with more serious charges that will hopefully translate to longer sentences.
“It was looking to be maybe a quick-hit kind of file if we weren’t given the opportunity to get the relationships going,” Misiwich said. “This was a good file that shows, if we’re given a little bit of rope, the resources to go behind a plan, things can be developed. Had we been constrained to doing only a small number of buys, we would have never gotten to where we did.”
A big feather in ALERT’s cap for Project Entry was the fact that charges of instructing a criminal organization were laid against a member of the Hells Angels, though Misiwich expects the group to fight that tooth-and-nail. “Just by virtue of them not wanting that conviction, I think it shows they take it very seriously,” he said.
The Hells Angels are the predominant OMG in Canada, and they have support clubs working throughout Alberta. There have been some skirmishes when other groups try to move in, most notably attempts by the Warlocks MC to stake a claim in Fort McMurray. One of the biggest challenges in combatting OMGs, Misiwich said, is keeping up with technology and counter tactics utilized by these groups.
But results like ALERT saw with Project Entry make it worthwhile to face those challenges head-on and motivate investigators for the next big case.
“At the end of the day, we’re here to do a job, and that job is to try and catch these guys,” Misiwich said. “I think there’s a sense of pride in that, at ALERT, we’re going after those higher-tier criminals whose jobs are to sell drugs or do criminal activity, and not be caught by the police. If we can jam them on that, that’s a win.”