VANCOUVER – Vancouver Police are investigating a series of violent incidents involving teens, and are urging young people who feel unsafe to call police immediately or tell someone they trust.
“A number of teens have already been hurt, and we’re worried the violence will further escalate,” says Sergeant Steve Addison, adding that police believe many youth crimes still go unreported.
“That’s why we’re imploring young people to come forward if they’re a victim of violence or if they have information that could prevent someone else from getting caught up in a dangerous situation.”
VPD investigations include several swarmings, robberies, and reports of violent rituals meant to demean and humiliate peers. Since spring break, VPD officers have also encountered a concerning number of youth with imitation guns, bear spray, brass knuckles, and machetes near schools and in the community.
Incidents of note:
· A 13-year-old boy was befriended online and lured from West Vancouver to Stanley Park through social media on April 24. Once in the park, he was swarmed by a group of intoxicated teenagers. They kicked, pepper-sprayed, and robbed him of his phone before assaulting a 63-year-old man who was also walking nearby. The young victim was found bloodied and walking on the seawall.
· A 14- and 15-year-old boy were assaulted and held at knife-point in two separate incidents while walking after dark in Kerrisdale on April 16. The boys were robbed of their backpacks, wallets, and electronics after being surrounded by 15 to 20 teens near East Boulevard and West 41st Avenue.
· A teenaged boy had a pellet gun held to his head by another youth while sitting on the steps at the Vancouver Art Gallery the evening of April 9. The incident was not reported to police until hours later, when staff at the VAG reviewed security video. The victim never came forward and the suspect has not been identified. Police are now working to identify the victim and suspect.
· A 19-year-old man was bear-sprayed and robbed of his backpack by a group of six youths while walking at night near East Boulevard and West 41st Avenue on March 23. He ran home and told a family member, but the suspects had left the area before police were notified.
VPD is also warning parents and youth about a concerning trend of teenagers swarming, assaulting, and video-taping their peers in humiliating and demeaning bullying rituals. These rituals typically include a group of teens surrounding a lone victim, then punching, kicking, and slapping them until they fall to the ground, before forcing them to kiss their attackers’ shoes. Videos of the attacks are sometimes posted online.
“These incidents don’t just cause physical harm, they can lead to deep-rooted emotional trauma that leave permanent scars,” adds Sergeant Addison. “Sadly, the very nature of these incidents often deters victims from coming forward, because they fear retribution and further humiliation.”
VPD encourages parents to speak with their children about bullying and violence, and encourages teens with information about a crime to call police or seek help from someone they trust.
VPD has also expanded targeted patrols and is continuing community outreach programs in an effort to prevent more violence and encourage victims to come forward.
VPD’s Youth Services Section has established a tip-line for anyone with information about the swarmings in Stanley Park and Kerrisdale, or the gun incident at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Anyone who has not yet spoken to police is asked to call 604-717-0614.
Anyone in immediate danger or with information about a crime in progress should call 9-1-1 right away.