Vancouver Police have issued a warning about a series of violent incidents involving teens, urging tens who feel unsafe to call police immediately or tell someone they trust.
The warning comes after multiple VPD investigations into swarmings, beatings, robberies and violent hazing rituals among youth in the city.
“A number of teens have already been hurt, and we’re worried the violence will further escalate,” said Sgt. Steve Addison, adding that police believe many youth crimes still go unreported.
Police have reportedly encountered a “concerning number” of youth with imitation guns, bear spray, brass knuckles and machetes near schools, as well as in the community at large. They did not say whether the number represented an increase in teens carrying weapons.
The VPD highlighted multiple incidents, including one where a teen from West Vancouver was lured to Stanley Park via social media. Once he arrived, the 13-year-old was swarmed by a group of intoxicated teenagers who kicked, pepper-sprayed and robbed the boy of his wallet and cell phone.
In another instance, a 14 and a 15-year-old boy were assaulted and held at knifepoint 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, which is nearby Point Grey Secondary School.
One brazen incident occurred outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on April 9 where a teen had a pellet gun pointed at his head by another youth. 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.
Police say this is part of a trend in teens 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.
The VPD did post a video of one such incident, which was subsequently taken down for violating YouTube’s terms of service.
“These incidents don’t just cause physical harm, they can lead to deep-rooted emotional trauma that leave permanent scars,” Addison said. “Sadly, the very nature of these incidents often deters victims from coming forward, because they fear retribution and further humiliation.”
Police have expanded targetted patrols and community outreach programs aimed at encouraging “good citizenship” among teens.
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.