Townline Hill conflict escalates

Incidents have become more severe, say police

A sign in a west Abbotsford neighbourhood indicates that a security camera has been installed.

A sign in a west Abbotsford neighbourhood indicates that a security camera has been installed.

The number of incidents involving two groups of young men in the Townline Hill area of Abbotsford isn’t increasing but the severity is, according to local police.

Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald said the conflict, first reported by police in July, has escalated from acts of vandalism and mischief – such as keying cars and smashing windows – to incidents such as arson.

MacDonald pointed out two specific examples of car fires that had been deliberately set in the driveways of people identified as being involved in the ongoing dispute.

One took place at about 4 a.m. on Oct. 20 on Westridge Place, where a Lincoln vehicle was set on fire and required crews to extinguish it.

The second was at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 22, when a fire was set beneath a Hummer on Kingfisher Drive, but the blaze extinguished itself before spreading.

In both cases, MacDonald said there was the potential for the fires to spread to the homes and cause serious injury or death.

“That’s not the same as doing a burnout on someone’s lawn or ordering 50 pizzas to someone’s house or keying a car,” he said.

MacDonald said police are also concerned that the two groups are congregating in different areas – such as malls and workplaces – and on a couple of occasions there have been minor vehicle collisions involving the two sides.

He said police are continuing to treat the matter – which they refer to as the “Townline Hill conflict” – as a high priority.

“We’re very concerned. This has not been an issue that has gone away or has been lowered from its priority by the police.”

MacDonald said police are continuing to meet with family members of the two opposing sides and step up enforcement in the area.

The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) reported in July that there had been more than 25 incidents since May 11 involving two groups of men – ages 15 to 25 – and this had resulted in thousands of dollars in property damage.

He did not have figures for the number of incidents that have been reported recently, as there is some grey area as to what situations are directly related to the conflict.

In mid-August, the APD had security cameras installed on two different streets in the area that had been identified as the “hot spots” for much of the activity. Those cameras are still in place, MacDonald said.

It has not yet been confirmed whether the fatal shooting of Harwin Baringh, 18, is related to the conflict.

Baringh was found dead in his vehicle on Oct. 2 on Sparrow Drive – not far from the area involved in the Townline Hill conflict.

The matter is still under investigation by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, and no charges have been laid.

Anyone with information about the conflict is asked to call the Abbotsford Police Department at 604-859-5225 or text abbypd (222973).