Police say 27 suspects, including members of outlaw biker gangs, have been arrested following a joint investigation that led to the seizure of drugs, cash and a dozen firearms.
The 13-month investigation into drug and gun smuggling, dubbed Project Coyote, involved Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) as well as officers in Belleville, Toronto and Windsor.
They're motivated by profit and seem to stop at nothing to get it. - OPP Chief Supt. Paul Mackey
Three members of the Hells Angels and three members of the Red Devils biker gangs were among those taken into custody, according to Chief Supt. Paul Mackey of the OPP's organized crime enforcement bureau.
"Urban street gangs are moving out of the neighbourhoods and they're turning into global criminal networks," Mackey said during a video briefing about the project Thursday afternoon. "They're becoming bigger. They're becoming bolder."
The investigation also shows groups are moving out of traditional territories in large urban centres, he added.
"We're seeing the move into smaller municipalities," Mackey said. "They're motivated by profit and seem to stop at nothing to get it."
Det.-Insp. Rob Henderson said the majority of the bikers were in the Belleville area, though one full-patch member of the Hells Angels was from Windsor.
He described how the group set up a clubhouse on Highway 37, then moved it to a storefront downtown before again relocating to Quinte West. That final location was raided Wednesday as part of the investigation.
Guns, drugs, vehicles and cash seized
Police said a 3D-printed Glock P80 and a stolen Ruger 357 are among the firearms recovered during the investigation, along with three sawed-off shotguns.
Investigators seized body armour and biker gear including Hells Angels vests, member lists and photos, along with 10 vehicles and more than $370,000 in cash, according to OPP.
They also confiscated 16 kilograms of cocaine, 1.5 kilograms of fentanyl and six kilograms of crystal methamphetamine.
Charges range from drug and firearm offences to participation in a criminal organization.
An OPP media release notes the investigation is ongoing, and more charges and seizures may be added.
Deputy Chief Chris Barry of the Belleville Police Service said the Hells Angels and its "puppet club" the Red Devils intimidate residents and seek to profit on the "misery they inflict on our most vulnerable citizens."
The presence of biker gangs wearing their colours while driving around town during the past few years undermined the feeling of safety for many residents, he said, adding the arrests will have another effect too.
"It's going to make a major, major dent in the flow of illicit drugs into this community."
Barry said Project Coyote sent a "powerful message" to organized crime.
"You set up shop in Belleville or you set up shop in Cornwall or Kingston, you're not just going to be facing the police agency of jurisdiction there," he explained.
"You are going to be facing the combined might of law enforcement from across the province."