edm-veitch

Edmonton police Supt. David Veitch said the arrests occurred thanks in part to the co-operation of parents, school officials and community leaders who helped police in the investigation. ((CBC))

A 10th person has been charged in a series of Molotov cocktail attacks that started in Edmonton's Mill Woods neighbourhood almost a year ago, police said Tuesday.

Law-enforcement officials are crediting the co-operation of parents, school officials and community leaders, who came together to assist police in the investigation, with helping them make the arrests.

The investigation has led to more than 100 charges being laid against the accused, nearly all of them teenagers.

"In the beginning, we had a lot of information coming to us from people who were directly related — associates or people who were maybe known to individuals," police Supt. David Veitch said. "And so once we started working with communities and schools, we identified 30 core people and then began to do some investigations."

The arson attacks began in March, when a dispute among groups of teens in the neighbourhood escalated into Molotov cocktails being thrown at the homes of rivals. Thirteen homes were targeted, but one home was hit by mistake.

Nine of the accused are teens, ages 16 to 18. They face varying numbers of explosives- and arson-related charges.

One adult, Amir Ahmed Qureshi, 20, turned himself into police on Sunday night after police issued a warrant for his arrest.

He has been charged with four counts each of unlawfully making or possessing explosives, possession of incendiary material, possession of an explosive with intent, arson with disregard for human life and one count of uttering threats.

Teens need 'a place to belong,' councillor says

Ward 6 Coun. Amarjeet Sohi, who helped bring the parents of the accused teens and police together, said the youths "need a place to belong."

"They're struggling for their identity; they're struggling to find a place — or at least  being recognized by their peers that they are someone," Sohi said. "And that struggle sometimes leads them to portray 'macho' or 'Look,  I'm doing this' [attitudes]."

Nevertheless, Sohi added, "at the end of the day, if you break the law, you will be caught and you will pay the price. I think that is the message we need to get out to the young people."

The schools have to do a better job of helping teens with their problems, Sohi said, adding he will continue to work with the families of the charged teens. 

Kyle Dube, the director of You Can, a non-profit youth and violence prevention group in Mill Woods, said Tuesday many of today's youth simply want to be accepted.

"They just want to be part of something bigger than themselves," he said.

"Some of them lack the supports that a family will give you — or even a community will give you — so they turn to these groups and these gangs, and that's where they find it. It's always sad to me when young people are being incarcerated and when young people are being charged.

"I understand that it needs to happen — it's appropriate. What we hope is that in some of the work that we're doing we'll also see crime prevention."