'Ongoing youth violence': VicPD cracking down on groups of teens involved in downtown assaults
Victoria police say they've been dealing with "ongoing youth violence" in the city's downtown core over the last several weeks, with officers responding to dozens of calls for assaults, swarmings and vandalism.
The Victoria Police Department issued a statement on the incidents Thursday, saying they've responded to more than two dozen calls for service related to groups of young people in recent weeks.
"Youth from surrounding municipalities have begun coming to downtown Victoria on Friday and Saturday nights to consume alcohol and drugs," police said in their statement.
"Some nights have seen over 150 youth in groups of various sizes gathering in locations across downtown Victoria and the surrounding area."
VicPD shared seven examples of the types of incidents officers have been responding to, with the files in question spanning from April 22 to May 6.
Four of the seven incidents took place on the night of May 6, according to police. Those calls included:
- A report that "a group of 100 youths were in the area of Government and Douglas streets, with some of them jumping on car roofs, kicking car doors and damaging transit signs."
- A couple that reported being randomly attacked "by a group of 20 youths in the 900 block of Douglas Street."
- "A report of a group fighting near the intersection of Douglas Street and Pandora Avenue" that involved youths surrounding and harassing two unhoused people.
- The discovery of a youth lying in the road near View and Douglas streets "showing clear signs of intoxication and suffering non-life-threatening hand injuries" that were apparently sustained during a random assault on two people.
Other examples provided by VicPD included:
- A call on April 25 involving a business owner who was "swarmed and sprayed with bear spray when a group of youths began fighting outside his store in the 1100 block of Douglas Street."
- A call on April 23 involving a 70-year-old man who was "swarmed by a group of 25 youths in the 1200 block of Douglas Street."
- A call on April 22 in which an officer attempting to arrest a male youth armed with a knife and bear spray in the 1300 block of Douglas Street was swarmed by 14 other youths attempting to prevent the arrest.
In most of the cases listed, VicPD said the arrested young people were released to parents, though charges are being pursued.
"VicPD is working with regional partners including the Greater Victoria School District and regional police partners to engage with the youths and their families, interdict groups in key problem areas and conduct enforcement," police said in their statement.
Police added that they've heard from some parents who have been "providing their children with bear spray and alcohol when their children have expressed a desire to bring knives and drugs into Victoria’s downtown."
"Officers are informing parents that this type of approach is unhelpful and is instead leading to increased violence and damage," police said.
VicPD also said its officers will be "making their presence known" Friday night during a "tweet-along," and invited members of the public to join them on Twitter with the hashtag #VicPDLive.
“Several of the youths involved have told officers that they believe that they will not face criminal charges for their actions,” said VicPD spokesperson Const. Cam MacIntyre, in the release.
“Some of these youth are conducting violent, random attacks and have told officers that they believe that they will face no consequences for their unlawful actions. They are wrong. Officers are arresting and recommending charges, which can have significant and negative life-long impacts."