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Increase in youth violence in downtown Victoria

“Children gather, come downtown, make noise – it’s nothing new. The level of violence is new.

Around 100 young people from across the region flocked to the town center and wreaked havoc, and there are fears the incidents could escalate, the Victoria Police Service said.

“Children are gathering, coming downtown, making noise – it’s nothing new,” said Bowen Osoko, VicPD’s community engagement manager. “The level of violence is new.”

In a press release on Thursday, VicPD said police had recently been dispatched to at least 24 calls for violent incidents, including assaults, fights and vandalism.

Police said the calls included some in a group of around 100 youths jumping on cars and kicking, five or six youths violently attacking a 70-year-old man and a group harassing a homeless couple.

Osoko said the ages of those involved ranged from around 14 to 21, with the majority being under 18. Young people consider going downtown on social media, he said.

“It’s hosted on Snapchat and TikTok,” he said. “The kids will get on the bus and head to town.”

Bonnie Leadbeater, a retired psychology professor at the University of Victoria who studies teenage parenting and emerging adulthood, said it was important not to stereotype young people as troublemakers.

“There are a lot of people in that age group who don’t do bad things.”

Leadbeater said teenagers have suffered during the pandemic. “Also, there hasn’t been the same amount of good stuff they could get involved in. Things that inspire children to become good members of the community. “

Leadbeater said it’s hard to know what’s causing an increase in youth violence, especially given the work done in Victoria and British Columbia generally over the past decades to prevent violence and violence. intimidation.

She said there were serious incidents of youth violence in the late 1990s, including the 1997 murder of 14-year-old Reena Virk, who was drowned by two teenagers after being shoved and beaten near from Craigflower Bridge. “We had a whole phase with that, from the swarming of youngsters, and there was very serious damage.

Communities need to find ways to engage young people, she said, and potentially “re-engage some of our early bullying prevention efforts, violence prevention efforts and the efforts we were doing to help parents to raise aggressive children.

Leadbeater acknowledged that parenting teens can be tough, but she said getting kids involved in activities like sports, music, volunteering or part-time jobs can make a big difference.

“It’s not easy parenting this age group if they don’t want to let you know where they are,” she said. “But a lot of parents make an effort to drive their kids everywhere and make sure they know who their kids’ friends are.”

Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said anyone coming downtown to create trouble is not welcome.

“I haven’t heard much directly from the companies,” Bray said. “But some of this reported activity happens in the evening, so many of our retailers, our office workers are already closed for the day. But nevertheless, it is very worrying to hear about it.

“If you come to enjoy the city center, we would be delighted to welcome you. If you come to town to cause trouble, you are not welcome.

Asked about the incidents, a downtown small business owner said he hadn’t seen any groups of young troublemakers, while an employee at a convenience store on the same block said she regularly called the police for large groups of teenagers robbing the store and in some cases becoming violent.

Osoko said police are working with parent groups and school districts, and every police department in the area is involved in the response.

“Our goal is to prevent violence,” Osoko said. “We have the memories of Reena [Virk] and what happened. This is the kind of thing where parents can step in and help prevent it from happening.

ngrossman@timescolonist.com

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