WARNING: This article contains details about violence.
Vancouver and Surrey police say they are investigating a series of violent attacks in which groups of teenagers are targeting an individual.
The most recent incident took place at Hillcrest Primary School in Surrey on Saturday night, according to Cpl. Vanessa Munn with the Surrey RCMP.
“The violence exhibited by the youths during this incident is extremely disturbing,” Munn said Wednesday.
Video of the attack was recorded and posted online. It shows several teenage girls yelling at a girl who is bleeding from the face.
The group insults her and chases after her, before pinning her against a chain-link fence. She is forced to kiss her attackers’ shoes, while profusely apologizing for something – we don’t know what.
“There appeared to be a main primary assailant, but there were other people who were involved in the assault on the victim,” Munn alleged, adding that a girl was arrested on Saturday before being released on conditions.
Munn said she has not yet been charged, but likely will be. Charges are also being considered for the other teenagers, she said.
“It was an extremely traumatic incident for this victim,” Munn said, adding that she was taken to hospital by officers who found her near the school.
“I’m sure it’s something that I’m sure will be with them for a very long time.”
In Vancouver, Staff Sgt. Steve Addison said police investigators were looking at at least four separate and likely unrelated cases dating back to March.
- On March 23, a 19-year-old was allegedly bear doused and robbed by six teenagers in Kerrisdale
- On April 9, a teenager had a pellet gun pointed in the head by another teenager outside the Vancouver Art Gallery
- On April 16, in two separate incidents, two teenagers were allegedly assaulted, held at knifepoint and robbed while surrounded by 15-20 teenagers in Kerrisdale.
Additionally, on April 24, Addison said a 13-year-old from West Vancouver was lured to Stanley Park after befriending someone on social media. He was invaded by a group of teenagers, who allegedly kicked him, pepper sprayed him and robbed him.
He was found walking alone and bleeding on the seawall after the incident, Addison said.
“It’s very likely that we’re just scratching the surface with what we know and the vast majority of these types of things go unreported,” he said.
The Vancouver Police Department has set up a hotline for information about these incidents: (604) 717-0614.
“It is a serious concern”
According to Bonnie Leadbeater, professor emeritus in the department of psychology at the University of Victoria, these types of incidents were much more common 20 years ago.
“It’s unusual, and it’s gotten more unusual,” Leadbeater said. “It’s hard to know why we’re seeing this now, but obviously it’s a serious concern. We may have also become jaded.”
Leadbeater said incidents like those reported by police and posted in online videos may be linked to how teens have been affected by the COVID pandemic. However, she says, it’s always about group dynamics, status, loyalty and dominance.
“It’s not just about bullying, it’s about aggression,” Leadbeater said, “but it still has its basis in this group—in-group/out-group loyalty to a leader.”
She said for victims it’s always safer to come forward and make sure adults know what’s going on, so they can shut it up.
“These are traumatic events – very traumatic for a young person. It’s hard to claim your safety if you’ve been assaulted in this way, and it will take time,” Leadbeater said.
She said parents who read about incidents like this in the news can take the opportunity to reach out to their children to talk about what’s going on and how to deal with it.