RCMP in British Columbia’s second-largest city are investigating what the mayor calls neighbourhood “mob violence,” and have initiated a crackdown leading to deportations and probes targeting at least 50 people.
The situation in Surrey, southeast of Vancouver, is now focused on videos of the conflicts, basically pitched battles, circulating on social media. The most recent video was posted in the past week or so.
RCMP Corporal Elenore Sturko, speaking on Wednesday for the RCMP in Surrey, said there have been fights in the past involving multiple people in different parts of the city or different communities in the Lower Mainland.
“Having videos, which have brought a lot of attention to the issue and concern by the public and police, is certainly something new,” Cpl. Sturko said.
There was an August video depicting a fight in the parking lot of a strip mall in the Strawberry Hills area of Surrey. Then, there was an assault in the area on Nov. 11, leading police to begin an investigation into an assault with a weapon and mischief.
“It appears that somebody involved in that scuffle had posted a video online. After our investigation began, we got a copy of that and it actually opened up other avenues of investigation for us,” she said.
Cpl. Sturko said this is not a gang conflict, but rather a conflict of personalities among a group of youths and young adults in their late teens and early twenties.
“These are mostly interpersonal issues and disputes among people who are loosely associated to each other and hanging out in the same area,” she said.
Some are international students, she said, and others are from this country. However, she said police are reluctant to blame one particular group.
No serious injuries have been reported, but the police say there have been incidents of harassment, public intoxication and fights.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has urged the Mounties to do something.
“I am deeply concerned that this kind of mob violence is happening with alarming frequency," he said in a statement issued on Nov. 15.
“This behaviour is repugnant and puts the public at risk. It is imperative that RCMP take immediate and strong action to get a handle on this kind of mob violence that is occurring far too frequently in Surrey.”
This week, the RCMP are talking about their response.
Police say they have been investigating 50 people linked to the warring groups, leading to three deportations, with the status of three other individuals under review.
Cpl. Sturko said the reference to 50 people refers to identifying people and looking to see what involvement that may have had in violent conflict.
She declined to say where the three people deported have been sent, saying that was a question for the Canada Border Services Agency.
In a statement, the agency said on Wednesday that it cannot provide comment or details on specific cases, and also referred such questions to the RCMP.
Surrey RCMP said their Community Response Unit has been working to deal with safety issues related to youths and young adults whose actions have led to complaints of harassment, public intoxication and fights.
Police have also deployed front-line officers and members of the Surrey Gang Enforcement Team, among others.
Mr. McCallum’s spokesperson said he had no further comment on the situation. The mayor came to office in 2018 with a commitment to replace the RCMP with a new municipal force, and talks with the province are under way to make that happen.