Brockville has a youth crime problem, but it doesn’t have a youth gang problem, says police Chief Scott Fraser.
“Are they a group of people who are getting together and causing chaos, yes they are,” said Fraser in an interview with Global Kingston on Monday. Fraser emphasized that this group is nothing like well-known gangs, like the Outlaws MC, a biker gang that has been previously present in the area.
The group of troubled teens call themselves the burr gang, and Fraser says they range in age from 11- to 17-years-old, but most are about 14, including the group’s ringleader.
Fraser didn’t name the leader of the group, but he did say she was a 14-year-old female, and that she has been consistently well-known to Brockville police.
“Since July 1, we’ve dealt with her 15 times, and in the last two weeks, we’ve charged her four times,” said Fraser.
The police chief said often these teens are charged, sent to court and released on conditions — they then breach their conditions and police have to charge them again.
“Today, I’ve emailed the Crown attorney, saying enough’s enough, we’re getting tired of chasing them around in circles.”
Fraser couldn’t comment when asked whether the group had anything to do with the death of 33-year-old Damian Sobieraj, who was found dead in the St. Lawrence River on Sept. 14.
“I know people would like answers a lot quicker than we can give them to them, but we have to follow judicial process.”
Rumours have implicated the group of youths in Sobieraj’s death, but Brockville police have not confirmed the group’s involvement, nor have they classified Sobieraj’s death as a murder investigation.
“We have to put all of the ducks in the row to allege it’s a murder. And I know people are talking about it — that it is a murder,” said Fraser. “We’re not at the end yet, unfortunately.”
WATCH: Brockville residents organize in light of youth violence
Fraser said one bright spot in the current anxiety about the youths is that Brockville community members have been getting involved in their own protection.
He pointed to the newly reformed neighbourhood watch program, as well as a group of volunteer safety patrollers who call themselves the “Watch Dogs.”
He also mentioned that he is in full support of installing closed-circuit television cameras in affected areas, on the waterfront and in parks, which some current municipal candidates have suggested.
Most of all, Fraser said people should continue to communicate with the police.
“Please call us, that’s what our job is. So if you see something, phone us.”