Public forum will address violence and crime in west Abbotsford

The event addresses ongoing issues in the South Asian community and will be held mostly in Punjabi

Police were on Sparrow Drive in west Abbotsford on the evening of Oct. 2 to investigate the murder of Harwin Baringh

Police were on Sparrow Drive in west Abbotsford on the evening of Oct. 2 to investigate the murder of Harwin Baringh

The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) and the Abbotsford school district are hosting a community forum on Wednesday, April 15 to address the ongoing violence in the western part of the city.

Const. Ian MacDonald said that because the conflict involves young men in the South Asian community, the forum will be presented mainly in Punjabi.

He said the goal is to inform parents and concerned citizens about the role they can take in helping to curb gang violence and recruitment.

Police Chief Bob Rich and school district superintendent Kevin Godden will be among those in attendance.

The first part of the forum will provide information about violent incidents and serious crimes that have taken place in west Abbotsford.

“These incidents have involved young people and have increasingly become a serious public safety issue for our city,” MacDonald said.

The second part of the forum will discuss ways for parents to work with their school to help their kids choose a better path.

“We believe that, for many, the path that leads to gang involvement begins in elementary school. For that reason, prevention and parental involvement is so crucial,” MacDonald said.

The forum, including a video, begins at 7 p.m. at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium, 32315 South Fraser Way.

MacDonald said police have previously talked to the parents of some of the young people involved in the conflicts and have had three types of responses – denial, minimizing  complicity in the behaviour, and interest in helping.

He said police would like those responses to shift, with more in the latter category.

Involved and aware parents can play a part in helping to alleviate gang crime and violence by reaching out for support when they see their child is having problems, MacDonald said.

Police first reported last July that two groups of South Asian men were involved in a dispute they called the “Townline Hill conflict,” named for the general area in which the incidents were occurring.

The incidents have involved mischief, assault, vandalism and arson.

Last October, 18-year-old Harwin Baringh was fatally shot while in his vehicle on Sparrow Drive, but police have not confirmed whether his murder is related to the dispute.

However, court documents filed in December to seize two vehicles alleged to have ties to Baringh’s murder indicated that his death was linked to an “ongoing gang conflict.”

On Feb. 22, one man was stabbed and another shot during an altercation in the 2300 block of Holly Street.

Less than two weeks later, shots were fired in the 31400 block of Southern Drive, and police said one of the homes struck by bullets was associated to a known South Asian gang member.

Police at the time said they were concerned about “escalating tensions and threats to public safety.”

On March 19, police issued a public warning about three individuals – Sandeep Sidhu, Jimi Sandhu and Gavin Grewal – they said are involving in an ongoing conflict and a “criminal lifestyle that includes violence, drugs and weapons.”

Police warned that the safety could be in danger of anyone associating with the three.