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Teens carrying bear spray, knives, fake guns cause headaches for West Van police

TikTok fueled beach parties at Ambleside prompt increase in youth-related violence
West Vancouver Police say partying crowds toting bear spray, knives and fake guns at Ambleside Beach have led to an increase in threats and violence among teens. | WVPD

West Vancouver Police are urging parents to talk to their teens after TikTok-fueled beach parties at Ambleside have resulted in a rash of recent calls to the area involving threats with bear spray, knives and fake guns.

Since the beginning of warm weather in May, there’s been a “substantial increase” in youth-related violence in the Ambleside and Park Royal areas, particularly in the evenings, said Const. Nicole Braithwaite, spokesperson for West Vancouver Police.

In recent weeks, there have been seven bear spray incidents involving teens, two files involving knives, and one involving an imitation firearm, said Braithwaite.

In the case involving the fake gun, police said someone reported that a teen had walked up to them brandishing the imitation gun and said, "Let me know if you want me to pop anyone."

Police later arrested the youth in possession of the fake gun as he was attempting to run away.

In another incident, two youths reported they had been surrounded by a group of teens threatening them with knives and pepper spray.

Braithwaite said police have increasingly noticed teens carrying bear spray that they say is for "protection."

But bear spray used on people can cause serious injury, she said, and if used with the intention of harming someone would be considered a prohibited weapon.

“If youth are needing bear spray or knives for protection, it is time that we start asking who they are hanging out with and what they are doing with their time,” said Braithwaite.

“Obviously it’s concerning,” said Braithwaite, adding Ambleside Park is a place that families visit with young children.

“It’s a huge drain on police resources,” she added.

Braithwaite said part of the problem is parents don’t know where their kids are hanging out or who they are with.

There has also been a huge increase in people posting about beach parties on TikTok and other social media, she said. “So we’re getting youth as far away as Burnaby and the Surrey area coming into Ambleside.”

Over the May long weekend, West Vancouver police spent two nights dealing with calls about fights, noise and drunk teens after crowds of hundreds gathered at Ambleside Beach.

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