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Security cameras quell tensions in Abbotsford neighbourhood

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Local police say that two security cameras installed in two west Abbotsford neighbourhoods are having the desired effect.

Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald said since the cameras were put up on Aug. 14, an ongoing conflict between two groups of young men has been curbed.

MacDonald said from July 3 to Aug. 14, police handled about a dozen incidents involving the men; an average of two per week.

These included vandalized vehicles, caravans of vehicles travelling in the area, and potential weapons – such as baseball bats and golf clubs – found in their cars.

MacDonald said since the cameras were installed, there have been only two minor reports and “neither of these was close to the scale we were having before.”

He said police who regularly patrol the area have noticed a drop in the activity, and neighbours have also reported a decrease.

“They are saying how quiet the neighbourhood has instantly become since the cameras have been there,” MacDonald said.

Police first reported on July 7 there had been more than 25 incidents since May 11 involving two groups of South Asian men – ages 15 to 25 – and this had resulted in thousands of dollars in property damage.

At the time, MacDonald said police were concerned that the dispute, which isn’t related to gangs or drugs, could escalate into serious physical injury.

The conflict, which police dubbed the “Townline Hill conflict,” subsided in July, but tensions began to rise again in early August. The cameras were installed on two different streets that MacDonald said had been identified as the “hot spots” for much of the activity.

The move was seen as a complement to other actions police have taken, including increased enforcement and discussions with family members and leaders in the South Asian community.

Some residents have been critical of police installing the cameras in those areas while not doing the same in Mill Lake Park, where four robberies have occurred since June 9.

The most recent one took place on Aug. 18, when two women were robbed near the Bevan Avenue parking lot by two men believed to be carrying handguns. One of the victims was 81 years old and uses a walker, and her companion was 40 years old.

MacDonald said police are considering installing security cameras in the park, but there are challenges. One is the vastness of the park and determining the best spot for the cameras.

Installing them in more isolated areas could result in the devices being vandalized. The cameras also require good ambient light to capture activity at night, and that’s difficult to find in the park, MacDonald said.

He said those discussions will continue. Meanwhile, police have increased their patrols of the park using uniformed and plainclothes officers, as well as bike cops. These officers, and the strategies they are using in the park, might not always be evident to the public, MacDonald said.

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