A photo from the bust that did not cripple the White Boy Posse whatsoever.
On the 12th of September this year, a mother of four named Lorry Ann Santos opened her door to find three members of a Western Canadian gang called the "White Boy Posse" at her doorstep. They shot her dead. The police believe that this was a case of “mistaken identity”. Last week, three White Boy Posse members were charged with her murder, along with the killing of two others. Two of those men were also charged with the murder and decapitation of a man named Bob Roth, who the police believe knew members of the White Boy Posse.
In 2008, the White Boy Posse was subject to a major sweep of arrests and seizures by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Organised Crime Unit. The gang associates themselves with white supremacist Nazi iconography and, along with swastika flags, the RCMP seized 28 firearms, £310,000 in cocaine, over £185,000 in cash, 3,000 ecstasy pills and a bunch of stolen stuff, according to an Edmonton Sun report. At that time, the RCMP said they had “crippled” the White Boy Posse.
According to the most recent numbers, the overall crime rate in Canada has dropped, though the homicide rate is on the rise. Getting more specific, Edmonton has the third highest homicide rate behind Winnipeg and Halifax. Saskatoon also rates second on a chart of crime severity, just behind Winnipeg.
I spoke to Michael Chattleburgh, the founding president of Astwood, a “strategy corporation” that works with the RCMP and crime prevention organisations to provide research and information. He is also the author of Young Thugs: Inside the Dangerous World of Canadian Street Gangs.
Regarding the rising problem of gang-related homicide in Western Canada, Michael told me that it all stems from the demand for drugs in the Western provinces: “There’s been a lot of gang members moving over to the Alberta area because of the oil sands projects. Those young guys who are working 12-hour shifts – what do they want when they’re done? They want their booze, they want their girls and they want their drugs. So, it’s been a little bit of a 'go west, young man’ right now. Certainly in Edmonton, the population of gangsters is growing, I would say faster than Toronto.”
Evidently, both because of its major infrastructure for drug production and its positioning as a port city, a lot of these drugs come from Vancouver, which “acts as a port for both the Mexican cartels who bring drugs up in fibreglass submarines and also from the Asian continents. It’s a victim of its geography in terms of where it sits, but being a port city matters because a lot of those ports are allegedly controlled by the Hell’s Angels.”
A photo of two White Boy Posse members.
The White Boy Posse are allegedly connected to the Hell’s Angels, as Michael has told other outlets, and he describes the whole network as a “pyramid”. As for the White Boy Posse’s own infrastructure, it appears to be on a lower chunk of the pyramid than the infamous biker gang: “The gangs across this country can be very flat in terms of structure. In other words, you may have ten members, but they’re all the same level. There is no defined leadership. In the case of the White Boy Posse, my information suggests there is some hierarchy. There are some leaders and mid-level members, but the structure of the gang is very much a crew that I would call a puppet to the larger gangs, which apparently have been handled by the Hell's Angels.”
While their name alone – and their association with Nazi symbolism – seems to indicate that they are a diehard white supremacist group, Michael’s own information seems to contradict that: “Traditionally, the Hells Angels were a white-only club. That’s changed in the recent past. But still, the whole thing of being a white supremacist gang and serving at the behest of a true organised crime giant (the Hell's Angels) makes sense. The White Boy Posse has in turn done the very same thing and recruited a large gang – as we understand, The Red Alert, which is one of the larger aboriginal gangs in the western provinces – to continue drug sales at the retail levels in communities.”
None of the White Boy Posse’s recent crime seems to indicate a predilection towards racially-motivated crimes, and their alliance with The Red Alert makes it even harder to pigeon-hole them as your run of the mill neo-Nazi faction. As Michael told me: “People say, in the vernacular: ‘How can a white supremacist gang work with Indians?’ Although the gang may be constituted of young white men, and that’s their only membership criteria, they will certainly be willing to partner with a non-white gang. That being Red Alert – who are made up of Cree, Anishinaabe and Metis – for economic purposes.
"The White Boy Posse isn’t that large and they don’t have the tentacles that some of these larger aboriginal gangs have. So their effective reach has been enabled by other gangs below them. The veneer of the gang is white supremacy, which would suggest that their victims would be black folks, but I don’t think that's the MO of the gang.”
More scary-looking White Boy Posse members.
It appears, then, that the White Boy Posse have positioned themselves in the branding umbrella of white supremacy simply to appear scary, and perhaps to directly reference the Indian Posse gang who Michael estimates to have “6,000 members”.
As for the RCMP’s assertion that they had crippled the White Boy Posse in 2008, Michael is very clear about the complicated problem of gang violence in general: “That’s what law enforcement says on the six o’clock news. It is, in many respects, a giant game of Whac-A-Mole. You can hit three heads and take them out, then three more will pop up. Now, if this was a sweep where they got them all – let’s say it’s a gang composed of 50 young men – is the gang crippled? Well, it’s going to be hard for them to recover. But taking out three or four guys, and assuming that they're found guilty and actually do time, doesn’t necessarily cripple a gang, particularly if they have a backing with more senior gangs. It will certainly hurt, but it’s not going to eliminate the White Boy Posse.”
Even if these arrests were to completely decimate the White Boy Posse, it would not eliminate the problem of a violent cold war in Canada's western provinces. As Michael says, "What it does create, is a vacuum. Someone will step into that vacuum to take over that market or turf. That oftentimes destabilises the existing order. When we see these things happening – we saw it in Toronto with major gang sweeps – it didn’t really get rid of the gang problem, it just created more elbow room for someone to step in."
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @patrickmcguire
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