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Metro Vancouver gang violence raises questions about police effectiveness, accountability

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A brazen daytime shooting at Vancouver International Airport on Sunday afternoon was followed by a high-speed chase through the streets of Richmond and the discovery of a burned-out car in Surrey.

Gangsters don’t care where they commit crimes, crossing two, three, or sometimes more police jurisdictions in the process.

Former B.C. solicitor general Kash Heed says Metro Vancouver’s patchwork of badges means no one is accountable for mistakes.

Click to play video: Metro Vancouver gangland violence escalates to dangerous new levels

“I listed five police leaders that got up and talked about these incidents,” he said of recent briefings held by police. “Not one of them could I look to and say the public can hold that person accountable.”

Metro Vancouver is the only large urban area in the country without a unified police force as the region is divided up between municipal forces and the RCMP. There have been calls for an amalgamation on and off for decades.

Click to play video: One dead in a gang-related shooting at YVR

During past outbreaks of gang violence, there were complaints about a lack of coordination and communication.

Police say things have improved dramatically since then, and the forces are now heavily integrated.

“In this case when we see a surge in gang violence across municipalities, we have an opportunity to further unite,” RCMP Asst. Commissioner Dwayne McDonald.

“So we conduct joint forces operations, we currently are coordinating the individual uniformed gang units of each municipality.”

Read more: Man killed outside Vancouver airport is region’s 10th shooting in only 3 weeks

Despite those efforts, the suspects in Sunday’s shooting managed to drive 28 km from YVR and burn their getaway car in Surrey, all before effective roadblocks could be set up.

Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s current solicitor, believes police have the funding they need.

“They work very closely together,” he said. “There is an extraordinary level of cooperation, whether it’s RCMP forces or municipal forces. And we know that they are working as hard as they can.”

Despite the perceived advantages, the momentum and timing to establish a regional police force have long since passed.

“We still have this traditional law enforcement structure that I strongly believe is part of the problem, why we’re not getting in front of this violent behaviour,” Heed said.

“The fact that we’ve got these 30 Balkanized police agencies spread out just in the Metro Vancouver area, and you try and hold someone accountable for it, it’s very troubling.”