By Jeremy Hainsworth
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — A Mexican crackdown on drug cartels has led to increased violence in this Olympic city as rival gangs battle over a dwindling supply of cocaine reaching Canada, police said Thursday.
Several shooting since January, some fatal, are likely linked to a drug turf war, according to police.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Supt. Pat Fogarty said Vancouver gangs are fighting over a decrease in smuggled shipments of illegal drugs.
"What we have is a cut in supply," he said, adding the gangs are "quick to go to the gun."
On Tuesday, five people were hospitalized after street gunfights and three more shootings occurred overnight Wednesday. Police call the violence "targeted" but still haven't determined if they're gang-related.
Police said a 32-year-old man found shot to death this week was the victim of a gang-style shooting, while a gang associate was wounded in a separate attack.
Fogarty said his task force has made some arrests in recent days, including a gang leader and three associates.
He said recent violence in Vancouver is "directly related to this Mexican war." The government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon has mobilized 45,000 soldiers and 5,000 federal police to try to curb cartel activity.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration acting administrator Michele Leonhart said last month that the Mexican crackdown has seriously impacted Canadian drug gangs.
With Vancouver preparing for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Canadian Minister of Public Safety Peter Van Loan has dubbed the city the gang capital.
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But Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the increasing violence should not worry people planning to attend the games. Officials say a total of 15,000 police officers, private security and military personnel will be providing security for the games.