At a recent town hall meeting, South Asian business owners from Surrey and Abbotsford said they want police to do more to stop an extortion scheme that some fear may lead to violence, if it hasn’t already.
B.C. Conservative leader John Rustad said he attended a meeting with about 50 business owners Monday, where they voiced concern about gangs asking for money in exchange for protection from violence.
“They would like to see the gang task force focused on going after these people,” he said.
Police in both cities have refused to link a series of shootings outside homes in Surrey and Abbotsford to an extortion scheme targeting South Asian businesses. No has been injured in the shootings, which are so far unsolved.
Postmedia reached out to two business owners to ask about the shootings, but one had temporarily left the country and the other declined to talk to media.
In late November, Surrey RCMP warned businesses about attempted extortions targeting business owners.
“It has come to our attention that some potential victims have spoken with local media and have not made police reports,” RMCP Cpl. Sarbjit Sangha said in a news release. “In order for police to investigate these incidents, they must be reported.”
Sangha had no new information on Wednesday.
Abbotsford Police issued a similar warning the same week after several businesses received a letter requesting money in exchange for “protection from future violence.”
The generic letter did not include business names or indicate a method of payment, contact, or communication, said a news release. While it referenced “recent reported events” in Abbotsford, police said no connection had been confirmed at that time.
On Wednesday, Const. Art Stele said he couldn’t provide more information.
“I understand the issue is very concerning, and we treat it as such,” he said.
Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai said he has heard reports linking the extortion attempts to several recent shootings. But he expressed confidence in police, saying the “recklessness” of those behind the scheme would lead to them being caught.
“It’s concerning, regardless,” he said when asked about reports the situation may have links to gangs operating in India. “It doesn’t matter if it’s coming from abroad or locally.”
He said some in the diaspora community might be reluctant to talk to police, but it is important to bring the situation to light.
“I think most people have been telling. I don’t know of any that have paid,” he said.
Rustad said the business owners he’s spoken to want to see more action from police.
He said they have been engaging with police, but they’re “not seeing the action that needs to be taken.” Some are worried for their families, in addition to their businesses and customers.
Rustad said he had also spoken to Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke about the issue. Locke was not available for an interview Wednesday.
Surrey Board of Trade president Anita Huberman said she had heard of two cases of extortion involving money or threats.
“I don’t believe it is widespread,” she said. “But employers need to take steps to ensure they have security measures in place. They need to develop processes and procedures to deal with things like this.”
CEO of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce Alex Mitchell said the business group has advised its members to report anything suspicious to police.
Source : Vancouver