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Mounties ask for peace after teens incite violence against homeless in Campbell River

Several teens were apprehended and police say they are still investigating.
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Campbell River RCMP say they received reports that multiple teenagers were starting fights with and behaving violently toward the city’s homeless population. FILE PHOTO

RCMP are raising the alarm after officers responded to reports of highly intoxicated teens inciting violence against people living on the street in downtown Campbell River on Friday night. 

In a Facebook post, police said they received reports that multiple teenagers — mostly in pickup trucks — were starting fights with and behaving violently toward the city’s homeless population. They said “most” of the youth were highly intoxicated and all were under the age of 19. 

“It was not as if they had ventured into the downtown core late at night to enjoy the nightlife and something bad happened,” RCMP said. “They were there for one reason only.” 

Several teens were apprehended and police are still investigating. 

“It truly was the saddest of situations, said Const. Maury Tyre. “A group of privileged youth taking on some of our town’s least privileged and hoping to provoke a street war.” 

The behaviour isn’t isolated: Police say that in recent weeks, people in jacked-up pickup trucks have chased down members of the Campbell River street community and thrown rocks and eggs at them. 

In the statement, RCMP said they acknowledge that property crimes committed due to addiction are an “excessive problem” and “homeless camps in the downtown core do look dreadful.” 

“But clearly this type of vigilante justice is not an effective way to deal with the community’s social ills and simply adds to them.” 

Campbell River RCMP ask anyone with information on the teens and their action to call them at 250-286-6221. 

Violence against people experiencing homelessness is not new to the region. In September 2020, a 20-year-old man is believed to have been deliberately set on fire while he slept under a highway bridge in Campbell River. 

Sue Moen, the supportive housing services manager with the Salvation Army and a member of the Campbell River & District Coalition to End Homeless co-ordinating commnittee, said she is seeing an increasing number of social media posts and comments that are calling for this type of violence. 

“My reaction is horror,” she said. “But, unfortunately, I’m not surprised.” 

The teens are likely hearing the anger from their parents and neighbours and through social media posts, Moen said. 

“There is a segment of the community that is responding to this tragic situation of close to 200 people living without housing in the city with inhumanity," she said.

“It appears they think they are doing the community a favour.” 

In 2021, B.C. Housing and the City of Campbell River opened 50 new supportive housing units on Dogwood Street, but it was only a drop in the bucket, Moen said. The most recent lists show at least 150 people are living outside or precariously housed. 

“We all recognize there are criminal elements within that [unhoused] population — same as there are in the housed populations,” she said. “I know people are frustrated because there has been significant damage to businesses. 

“But this crisis has been 40 years in the making. Asking for or expecting quick fixes is unrealistic and will frustrate people more,” she added. “There are solutions, and people need to come together in empathy and with positivity and openness and cross the divide.” 

ngrossman@timescolonist.com 

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