NEWS
07/15/2011 05:07 EDT | Updated 09/14/2011 05:12 EDT

Winnipeg Biker Gangs Prompt Police To Issue Door-To-Door Warnings

AP

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- WINNIPEG - Winnipeg police are going door-to-door in an attempt to crack down on a biker gang turf war that has seen more than a dozen buildings firebombed or shot up in recent weeks.

Police announced a plan Friday to descend on areas where known gang members live and alert residents about who their neighbours could be. The suspected gang member won't be identified, but police hope residents will be more vigilant.

"They can take that information and put it in their back pocket and say, 'OK, I'm aware of what's going on in my neighbourhood ... Maybe with this heightened awareness, I'm more likely to contact police if I observe something just out of place,'" police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen told reporters.

The increased police presence may also send a signal to gang members that they are being watched, Michalyshen said.

The effort could see thousands of residents contacted across the city, and the Manitoba government is promising to help pay for extra manpower costs.

"We expect that's going to mean overtime and we've made it clear to both the RCMP and the Winnipeg Police Service that if they're running into costs beyond their budget, the provincial government will be supporting them," said Attorney General Andrew Swan.

Police believe two rival gangs are battling over control of the city's drug trade and are trying to intimidate each other by attacking homes or businesses connected to each other's members or affiliates. Police have not named the gangs, but they are believed to be units associated with the Hells Angels and Rock Machine.

The most recent attack was the attempted firebombing of a tattoo parlour early Tuesday morning in the Osborne Village district.

In most cases, there have been no injuries, but an exchange of gunfire July 4 left a 14-year-old boy wounded.

The door-to-door visits are unusual for the police service's organized crime unit, but are a sign of the times, Michalyshen said.

"We do have to think outside the box and we live in a world where sharing information and communicating on a daily basis is so important," he said.

"People want this information. I think there's an obligation as a police service that we have to put this information forward."