Hundreds attended a public forum Thursday night to talk about the escalation of gang violence.
Police say the turf war between rival gangs is over the control of the drug trade, and involves mostly South Asian men between the ages of 15 and 25.
Yet only a handful of the roughly 200 attendees at the forum, held at the Abbotsford Arts Centre, were teens.
One explains why his former friends got involved in a life of crime.
“They want the money, and they want more friends, and they want to be the cool kids.”
He says they live in constant fear.
“Yes all of the time, because they could walk out of the house and get shot.”
The Townline Hill dispute in west Abbotsford has been escalating for several months, and culminated last week when a 74 year old innocent grandfather was killed by a stray bullet.
“It could have been my dad. So, it was really sad for all of us.”
One by one Abbotsford residents took to the mic, demanding more anti-gang intervention in schools and condemning what they consider lenient laws allowing robbery and home invasion suspects to get a slap on the wrist.
Many fear another innocent bystander could get caught in the crossfire.
“I guess I am concerned that we hear things like the 74 year old man who was shot; innocent bystander, it can happen anywhere in Abbotsford. And that is getting to be a real concern because, where is really safe anymore.”
“You almost have to blame some of the families as much as you blame the youth.”
“People have to speak up. Parents, they are the influence, I mean, they are influencing their children, their children are influencing them. Children are controlling them. Why are they afraid to talk? Why is the neighbour afraid to talk? Where does that come from? Is it the distrust of the police? I don’t know.”
Abbotsford Police Chief, Bob Rich, told the crowd its unacceptable only one person phoned 9-1-1 after last week’s fatal shooting.
“We got one 9-1-1 call, that’s it, from the house that got shot at, nobody else phoned us, that’s a problem, we have to fix that. I don’t know if people are afraid to phone, I don’t know if language is a barrier, but you have to phone 9-1-1, no matter what language it is that you speak.”
Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun says the public can’t be afraid to speak up.
“When I hear there was only one 9-1-1 call when this happened in that area which is surrounded with residential homes, there is something wrong. People are afraid, and they are afraid of some of these young people, they are bullies, I think in some cases even the parents are afraid of these kids.”
Braun says some kids are on a path to death and destruction, and it’s time for a game changer.
Meanwhile, Police in Abbotsford say drug trafficking charges have been laid against a man for the second time this year.
The department’s gang and drug unit executed a search warrant at a home and arrested 26-year-old Vishal Bajaj.
Police say they seized cash, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
Bajaj is charged with three counts of possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking, the same charges that were laid in May after he was arrested inside a vehicle.
Police say they believe Bajaj is involved in the ongoing conflict in the city’s Townline Hill area .