Edmonton police have laid hundreds of charges against a large group of men and boys, mainly teenagers, believed to be responsible for nearly 100 violent robberies, thefts and attacks at places throughout the LRT system, at various recreation centres and malls in the city.
On Wednesday, police announced an unprecedented 460 charges had been laid against 32 male youths and two young men in connection with crimes committed throughout Edmonton’s LRT corridor, malls and recreation centres between January 2017 and March 2018.
The accused — all male — are facing a wide range of charges, including aggravated assault, assault, robbery, weapons offences, theft under $5,000, possession of stolen property, possession of stolen credit cards, use of/or trafficking in stolen credit cards, credit card fraud, shoplifting, mischief, possession of a controlled substance and breach of conditions.
Investigators believe the groups — which usually included between four and 12 teens aged 13 to 18 years old — are behind more than 90 crimes reported predominantly in northeast and southwest Edmonton.
Watch below: Edmonton police have laid hundreds of charges against a large group of men and boys believed to be responsible for nearly 100 violent robberies, thefts and attacks over the past year. Sarah Kraus has details. WARNING: This video contains disturbing content.
Several incidents were reported at the Belvedere, Southgate and Century Park LRT stations, various convenience and grocery stores, as well as the Clareview, Terwillegar and Saville recreation centres.
Police said in April 2017, a 16-year-old boy was walking home from school when he was allegedly attacked by a group of six youths during a failed personal robbery in northeast Edmonton. Police said the teen was taken to hospital with serious injuries and underwent surgery.
More recently, a 46-year-old woman suffered serious internal injuries after being kicked down a flight of stairs at the Belvedere LRT station during a random assault by one of the youths. Surveillance video recorded at approximately 2 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 14 (see below) shows the accused male sliding down a bannister and fleeing the scene after the attack, while a young bystander tends to the woman lying on the stairs with multiple injuries.
The accused has since been arrested and charged with aggravated assault.
When questioned about the LRT, Mayor Don Iveson said, “Overall, the system is safe – 120,000 people ride the LRT every day. These incidents are by far the exception. But I’m very happy the police were able to identify these people and hopefully bring them to justice.”
Investigators believe 12 of the 34 accused were prolific offenders, involved in a majority of the incidents.
“Some of these youth are repeat offenders who we know, some of them are not. I’m hoping this is a wake-up call to all of these teens that were involved in this,” Edmonton police Supt. Tom Pallas said.
“If you’re showing such contempt and disrespect for our community and the law, you’ll be held to account for these actions.”
Police said the accused also “swarmed” victims in approximately one-third of their crimes, allegedly using social media to create “flash mobs” of youths to disorient and distract their victims.
In one such incident earlier this month, dozens of youth joined several of the accused in a swarming of two teenage boys at the Century Park LRT station.
Surveillance video recorded on March 7 at approximately 4 p.m. shows a flash mob rushing the two teenage boys, before retreating. The complainants were then allegedly beaten off camera, sending a 14-year-old boy to hospital for stitches to his skull.
Two of the accused teenage boys have since been charged with assault, as a result of the Century Park incident.
Police are aware of 66 complainants, with a variety of injuries.
“We’ve had broken ribs, we’ve had one with a significant eye injury. That’s the physical injury. You talk anywhere from a shoplifter to a personal injury, there’s the psychological injury as well,” Pallas said.
Watch below: Edmonton police have released surveillance video of two boys being rushed by a group of youth at the Century Park LRT station on March 7. Police say the boys were beaten off camera, sending a 14-year-old boy to hospital for stitches to his skull.
Investigators believe the incidents were all crimes of opportunity, in which the suspects targeted people for expensive items such as cellphones, laptops and clothes.
The 32 youths can’t be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Police said the remaining two accused adult males were not 18 at the time they committed their alleged offences, therefore they also cannot be named under the YCJA.
“I don’t think charges are always the answer but it’s a start,” Pallas said. “Hopefully again, ultimately, we like to divert them completely from the court system and never have to deal with them again. Realistically, is that going to happen? Not so sure. That’s where we need to approach this as a team, as a community.”