Organized crime kidnappings in Calgary lead to cross-country investigation

Staff Sgt. Roland Stewart said two kidnappings of women in Calgary last May were sophisticated and retaliatory, involving organized crime groups. (Calgary Police Service - image credit)
Staff Sgt. Roland Stewart said two kidnappings of women in Calgary last May were sophisticated and retaliatory, involving organized crime groups. (Calgary Police Service - image credit)

Five men from cities across Canada are facing a combined total of 52 charges after a nine-month, cross-country investigation into organized crime kidnappings in Calgary.

Last May, two women were kidnapped in separate incidents that occurred within hours of each other, the Calgary Police Service said Monday.

In the first incident, a woman in her 20s was approached by an unknown man outside of her workplace in the city's northeast on May 2 and forced into a vehicle, according to police,

While investigating that case, police learned that a second woman, in her 50s, had been kidnapped at gunpoint from a southeast residence several hours after the first incident.

Police say the second kidnapping was retaliatory.

"Both of these kidnappings were sophisticated and planned events involving various levels of organized crime members, including those contracted from outside Calgary," said Staff Sgt. Roland Stewart of CPS's organized crime response unit.

"These incidents are alleged to have been the result of drug-related, organized crime conflict, and the victims were targeted as a result of their associations."

The women were taken to separate Calgary residences, rented through Airbnb, and were held for more than two days, police said.

Both women were assaulted multiple times before being released by the culprits, CPS said.

Nine-month, multi-city investigation

Five men between the ages of 21 and 38 are each facing multiple charges, including kidnapping, robbery, sexual assault, theft over $5,000, uttering threats and knowing possession of an unlicensed weapon.

"Organized crime has really evolved through the last 10 years. It often leaves our jurisdiction, where individuals are hired out from all over Canada, all over North America," Stewart said.

"And in this particular instance, that's just what happened."

Stewart said CPS received "significant" assistance from policing units in Vancouver, Lethbridge, Edmonton and Windsor, Ont.

This included searching numerous electronic devices and five properties in Calgary, Edmonton and Windsor, according to a news release.

Police said more than 100 judicial authorizations were obtained to advance the investigations and gather evidence.

Stewart said offenders are highly motivated by money, and allegiances change often, sometimes on a daily basis.

"This adds complexity when we are working to prevent and suppress organized crime-related violence in our city," he said.

'This one was different,' says crime expert

While organized crime has made news in recent months and years in Calgary, this situation wasn't like the others, according to Doug King, a criminal justice professor at Mount Royal University.

"The two individuals, the two victims that are taken, don't seem to have anything to do with the organized crime, at least directly," he said.

"There's no doubt that organized crime is taking place here in Calgary. This one was different, though."

King raised a number of questions, especially about the wide age gap between the female victims as well as their apparent lack of direct involvement.

The participation of the alleged accomplices in Ontario, he said, particularly stood out.

"It struck me as very odd that this was a Windsor, Calgary, Edmonton connection," King said.

He explained that local organized crime usually focuses on nearby connections, like Edmonton and maybe into B.C. and Saskatchewan.

"But going all the way into Ontario leaves me to wonder what the heck is going on," King said.