METRO VANCOUVER — A 13-year-old boy who slashed a man with a knife because he wouldn’t give him a cigarette has been in court and involved with police 75 times in the past year.
The youth, who has been in and out of foster care, was on probation when the latest attack occurred aboard SkyTrain near Columbia Station, according to the Transit Police Service.
He was charged Tuesday with assault causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon in connection with the attack, which left a 23-year-old Ontario man with severe cuts to his left hand. The man was heading home after watching a Canucks game at a Vancouver restaurant when he refused to give the boy a cigarette and was slashed.
People on the train who witnessed the attack pushed the emergency intercom and requested immediate assistance. As the train came into Columbia Station, people from the train pointed out the youth to a SkyTrain attendant, who got the boy off the train and then called for police. Another SkyTrain attendant began first aid on the victim and then took him to hospital.
Transit police spokesman Tom Seaman said the youth needs help.
“What’s happened in his life to have him blow up so easily and so quickly in anger?” he asked.
The youth, who was being held at the Burnaby Youth Detention Centre, cannot be named because he’s a young offender.
But police say he’s no stranger to them.
At the time of his arrest, the youth was breaching curfew and other probation restrictions, including possessing and owning a weapon, police said. He was convicted on six charges in 2008 and was scheduled to to court on four outstanding issues in Surrey.
Most of the incidents involved violent offences with weapons such as knives, or were alcohol-related, transit police said.
“This young man has been in foster care for a good period of his life,” said Police Chief Ward Clapham.
“It just breaks my heart. On the one hand this is not acceptable, this type of behaviour is a very serious crime. On the other, wow, here’s a 13-year-old, look at his record and the level of violence ... and he continues to slip through the cracks.”
Clapham said the incident underscored the need for the community to pull together. He said he was calling on the 21 municipalities in Metro Vancouver to help people like this boy — either through treatment or jail — before the situation gets any worse.
“This is real, it’s happening more and more often,” Clapham said. “We as police can only do so much. ... No blame, let’s get our heads together and deal with it.”
Ministry of Children and Family Development spokesman Kelly Gleeson would not give details of the youth’s past, or even confirm that he was in foster care, due to privacy concerns.
“That being said, any youth — in care or not — that has repeated dealings with the youth justice system is obviously of concern,” Gleeson said in an e-mail. more
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