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B.C. police chief pens letter to parents of suspected gang members

Click to play video: 'Abbotsford police send letters to parents of known gang members' Abbotsford police send letters to parents of known gang members
WATCH: Abbotsford police have taken the unusual step of writing letters to parents of known gang members, telling them their children are in danger. John Hua reports on what the police hope to accomplish – Dec 13, 2016

Police in Abbotsford, B.C. are taking a drastic measure to help address the community’s deadly Townline Hill gang conflict.

Abbotsford Police Department Chief Bob Rich has sent letters to the parents of suspected gang members, warning them their child’s life is in danger.

An excerpt from the letter reads:

“Your son’s life is in critical danger. If he stays involved in gangs, he is at serious risk of being killed. As a member of one of these gangs, your son’s actions are causing other people to die. In addition, if you have other younger sons in your house, experience has shown us that they are at risk of being pulled into gangs by their older brother.”

The Townline Hill gang conflict refers to an area in Abbotsford where a number of violent acts between two rival groups fighting over drugs and territory have taken place. It has been an ongoing concern for the APD since 2014.

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READ MORE: Abbotsford shooting possibly part of Townline Hill conflict: IHIT

Although police have dedicated a wide array of resources to law enforcement in the area and made a number of arrests over the past two years, the letter, Rich says, is “an earnest attempt to change the direction of the conflict and the lives of those involved.”

“There are parents out there who are not fully aware. There are parents out there who are giving their sons the benefit of the doubt,” APD Cst. Ian MacDonald said in an interview on BC1.

“What we’re trying to do right now is to prove to them definitively that their kids are involved in this conflict in various ways and we are actively trying to work with them to protect their children.”

In the letter, which was sent in English and Punjabi, Rich says two gangs are fighting over who gets to sell illegal drugs in Abbotsford and attributes five murders to the conflict. One victim was an innocent bystander and another of the five killed was an 18-year-old.

WATCH MORE: Parents of kids believed to be involved in the Townline Hill conflict will be receiving a letter from Abbotsford’s police chief. Cst. Ian McDonald has more details about the criminal activity warning.

Click to play video: 'Warning letter sent to Abbotsford parents about Townline Hill conflict' Warning letter sent to Abbotsford parents about Townline Hill conflict
Warning letter sent to Abbotsford parents about Townline Hill conflict – Dec 13, 2016

Rich also states the drugs being sold are “killing many other people in Abbotsford because people that use these drugs are dying from overdoses.”

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“It’s things like that, that cause us to step out a bit… step outside the box and bring different types of solutions to the problem,” MacDonald said.

“And we’re hoping that some of those solutions will come at the hands or with the assistance of the parents of these young men, who are making bad choices.”

The police chief also empathizes with the parents and said he doesn’t blame or fault them for their son’s actions. Instead he asks to talk to them about what they can do about it.

APD officers are hand-delivering just under 20 letters to the parents at their doorsteps.

“We’re not taking any chances of the letter being lost,” MacDonald said. “We want that face-to-face moment between Abbotsford Police members and the family.”

So far the response has been “fairly positive” and MacDonald said some parents, who are predominantly South Asian, have been “less aware then they should have been and there’s others that now understand the consequences both for the people inside their household and outside their household for the continuing problem.”

WATCH MORE: Police investigate drug turf war in Abbotsford

Click to play video: 'Police investigate drug turf war in Abbotsford' Police investigate drug turf war in Abbotsford
Police investigate drug turf war in Abbotsford – Mar 14, 2016

This isn’t the first time the APD have asked parents to take action within their own households.

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MacDonald said previous messaging has had some success.

Calling it a silver lining, MacDonald said some of the parents and young men decided to take action or in some cases they’ve been arrested. In other circumstances, the family has either left the community or they have moved the son or sons out of the community to get them away from the conflict.

“Some change has been affected but we still see the potential for violence,” MacDonald said.

“We’re still interdicting and suppressing violence that relates to this conflict on a regular basis and until we can bring an end to it, there’s always a public safety concern. So we’re hoping  that the parents will be involved and help us alleviate these concerns.”

Abbotsford Police Chief’s Annual Christmas Card

The APD is known for reaching out directly to the community and Chief Rich famously sends out a Santa card each year to people the force deals with on a regular basis.

The holiday card campaign, which tends to be an extension of other anti-gang messaging, is designed in-house with partial inspiration from Yuletide cards sent by U.K. police targeting seasonal crime like shoplifting.

In 2013, the holiday message emphasized “even Santa makes mistakes” with the aim to let people know it’s never too late to make a different choice about the rest of your life.

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“We recognize there are challenges… the way that we have dealt with things is we face those challenges head on but we also share our objectives and tactics with the public and the media,” MacDonald said.

“We want everybody and every voice that can assist with these challenges to be part of the solution.”

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