Organized Crime has had a presence in Newfoundland for a long time, now it’s changing, says Albert Jones, a historian and crime professor at Memorial University.
Jones says drug smuggling rings have had a notable presence on the island since at least the 1970s, and possibly before.
“Wherever you go, you’re going to find organized crime,” he says. “They go for markets.”
But Jones says that now, particularly over the last two to three years, it looks like the market is shifting.
“It seems that recently, the real money is in cocaine, in ecstasy and, perhaps — and I hope not — designer drugs,” he says.
Jones says that usually, organized crime groups in Newfoundland are small, dealing mostly with local markets. While he says police estimate there could be 100 groups, they consider an organization to be three or more people.
“That’s usually what we see here, but what’s happening now, nobody knows. It seems to be a very fluid situation. It could be competition.”
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Jones says the recent changes to criminal activity in the province are partially due to recent prosperity.
“This always happens. It’s happened elsewhere. It’s happened in Fort McMurray,” he said. “If there’s more money, there’s more people and there’s more market opportunity.”
His comments echoed those by Memorial University criminologist Scott Kenney when he spoke to The Telegram recently.
“The bottom line is, all of this is done for money. It’s done for the dollars. It’s done for the profit,” Kenney said.
Still, not every bit of popular knowledge holds true when it comes to organized crime, Jones insists.
“I think people have got to get rid of their misconceptions about the guy in a trench-coat, fedora hat, sunglasses, a big ring and a great big cigar,” he says. “Members of criminal organizations live in society like you or I.
“They are just as much in business as people running a major corporation. Only what they do is provide to the other market. The illegal market.”
Hard to combat
Due to the secrecy of organized crime, and the nature of its business, it’s difficult for police to track it down, Jones and Kenney say.
“Organized crime is very difficult to penetrate, because if I steal a hundred dollars from you, I’m a predator and you are a victim,” Jones explains. “If I sell you a hundred dollars’ worth of drugs, I’m not a predator. I’m a retailer, and you’re a consumer.
“The victim reports. What consumer reports?”
Kenney also told The Telegram that organized crime groups do their best to cover their tracks, and prefer to do things quietly.
“They want to keep the business flowing. They don’t want trouble,” he said.
As well, he said the organizations become self-sustaining, and members become disposable.
While neither Jones nor Kenney were surprised to hear that gang-related crimes were occurring in
St. John’s, Kenney didn’t suspect there would be many more high-profile events.
“You’ll never get rid of it totally. It’s always been here,” Jones added.