A violent ethnic war between Filipino and Vietnamese youths in the Lower Mainland will likely escalate, Vancouver police said yesterday.
“What’s even more alarming is that sometimes the intended victims don’t even belong to the disputing groups, but just happen to be a member of that community,” said police Insp. Kash Heed.
Investigators believe the conflict that has led to a series of bloody incidents started in July, when two Vietnamese youths were attacked, one suffering a broken arm, the other serious leg injuries.
In late July, a non-involved 14-year-old Asian boy was attacked by five Filipino youths because they thought he was Vietnamese, Heed said.
On Aug. 30, young Vietnamese were involved in a drive-by shooting.
On Sept. 8, a staffer at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School in Vancouver intervened in a knife assault involving members of the two groups.
On Oct. 1, in the 3300-block of Vanness Avenue in Vancouver, six to seven Filipino males attacked a Vietnamese youth, puncturing his liver. About 20 minutes earlier, young Vietnamese had stabbed a Filipino youth.
The violence “boiled to a crescendo” Oct. 8 when members of both gangs went to a dance at the Polish Community Hall on Fraser Street at about 10:30 p.m., said Vancouver youth-services unit Det. Doug Spencer.
“They all knew each of their communities were going to be there,” Spencer said.
Six people were stabbed in the ensuing brawl outside the hall, two seriously. One remains in hospital.
“We’re fortunate that no one was killed that night,” Heed said.
Much of the fighting has taken place near the Joyce SkyTrain station, but other incidents have occurred around the Lower Mainland.
Those involved are aged between 13 and their early 20s. Many are students at Lower Mainland high schools, police said.
“In a lot of cases the older brothers will get involved,” Spencer said, adding that females sometimes carry weapons to the fights because male police officers are less likely to search them.
The fights have involved a variety of bladed weapons. The groups commonly favour machetes, swords and illegal switchblades and butterfly knives, police said.
“They have easy access to these weapons,” Heed said.
The war is fuelled by “bravado” and is not over drugs or turf, Heed said, adding: “All indications are that it is going to escalate.”
The Filipino members have been wearing red bandanas as gang “colours,” Spencer said.
“They’ve learned this from watching videos and movies,” he said.
Vancouver police on Wednesday met with regional law-enforcement officials to implement an “integrated approach” to the violence.
Investigators expect criminal charges will be laid in connection with the attacks.
Police are speaking with those involved, and with ethnic community leaders and parents of assailants and victims.
“We’re going to tell them right up front that your son or daughter [is] doing this when they’re outside of the home. We’re expecting you to take some action to deal with this,” Heed said.
“You can’t come back and say, ‘You never told us that they were involved in this.’ You can’t come back and say you didn’t know.”