As charges have been laid against a youth in connection with the stabbing of a 13-year-old last month in Sooke, experts agree that an increase in youth violence is a regional issue, especially related to incidents in downtown Victoria.
Mia Golden is a youth counsellor with Pacific Centre Family Services Association with Mobile Youth Services Team (MYST), which she coordinates with Victoria Police Const. Gord Magee.
“We’re seeing kids from Sooke, the West Shore, Oak Bay, Sidney, basically all municipalities in the region head downtown to party,” Golden said. “That’s led to an increase in the incidents we see happening. We’re seeing an increase in violence and youth carrying weapons like knives and pepper spray.”
Golden, who also serves as the Crime Exploitation and Exploitation Diversion co-ordinator (CRED), believes several factors contribute to the situation, including the pandemic and the region coming out of a long rainy winter.
“Youth, developmentally speaking, crave a sense of belonging, adventure and connection to other youth,” she said.
During the winter months in other regions, youth might have skiing, snowboarding, and other activities available as an outlet that isn’t available to youth in Victoria.
“All of the municipalities in the region could definitely use more activities,” Golden said. “Without those activities, the kids come downtown.”
Social media plays a role as well.
“Often, these kids don’t know each other but connect online and make plans to meet,” she said. “Drugs and alcohol are involved, including access to harder drugs. We’re seeing harder drugs now being considered as a party drug.”
Magee said the alarming increase in kids heading to downtown Victoria has led to random violence, mischief and assault.
“We are working in concert with all municipalities and stakeholders to address this,” he said. “We are regularly consulting but don’t want to give away our playbook (at this time).”
Sgt. Kevin Shaw, operations NCO for the Sooke RCMP detachment, said the issue of increased youth violence has coincided with an increase in violent crimes in the area, although not solely attributable to youth.
“We are engaging with the Victoria Police department and eager to support the issues they are experiencing any way we can,” said Shaw, who indicated that it was a challenging topic.
Shaw confirmed that the B.C. Prosecution Service had charged a youth with one count of aggravated assault following the stabbing of a 13-year-old student from Journey Middle School on April 14 on the wooded trail near the end of Throup Road.
The individual cannot be named under the conditions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.