Police in Ontario delivered about a dozen very special valentines to suspected gang members earlier this month. The message: "Will you be ours? Probably."
Ontario Police Chief Mike Kee told BW that the letters notified local suspects that they had been designated as "criminal gang affiliates," a label that will stay in the city records for four years. To get on the shitlist, suspects had to meet either one of what he called "A-list" requirements, such as admitting to being in a gang, or two "B-list" requirements. These include sporting gang tattoos, committing crimes for one of Ontario's two major street gangs or showing up in a picture using gang signs.
"We've got a lot of pictures, from the search warrants we've served, of people posing," Kee said.
The letter campaign, which was authorized in January by the Ontario City Council, is an attempt to curb gang violence by penalizing convicted criminals for hanging out together. "When this condition is placed upon them, and an officer sees them walking down the street with someone else who is documented, he'll be able to arrest them both for violating their probation," Kee said.
The letters also included information about how to contest an inclusion on the list. Kee said one man had made use of that option so far. "He's adamant that he's not a gang member, and as far as we're concerned, he's one of our most notorious gang members," Kee said. "So, this should be interesting."