Police patrols at transit hubs will be increased after a stabbing on a Surrey, B.C., bus left a teenager dead, the latest in a rash of knife attacks in public transport settings in Metro Vancouver and Toronto.
Surrey RCMP said the stabbing happened just before 9:30 Tuesday night, when the 17-year-old male victim and his attacker got into some sort of altercation while on the bus, not far from the King George SkyTrain station.
Police are still seeking witnesses but said it appears the stabbing was “targeted.”
No arrests have been made, and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, or IHIT, has been called in to investigate.
“At this time, investigators believe this to be an isolated incident with no connection to the Lower Mainland gang conflict,” IHIT said in a written statement.
Cpl. Vanessa Munn, media relations officer for the Surrey RCMP, said at a news conference on Wednesday that while overall crime in Surrey is down 14 per cent this year, incidents like the fatal stabbing can create fear in the community.
Munn said that is why Surrey RCMP and Metro Vancouver Transit Police will be stepping up patrols at transit hubs and other related sites for an indefinite period.
Premier David Eby acknowledged the “disturbing news” of the teen’s death at the start of a news conference in Nanaimo where he announced a government plan to tackle repeat violent offenders throughout the province.
“Horrific news out of Surrey, and absolutely part of why we’re here today,” said Eby, adding the repeat violent offender program is part of “our commitment to address the issue of public safety.”
A number of knife attacks have taken place in Metro Vancouver transit settings in the last two weeks.
On Monday night, a victim was attacked at the Columbia SkyTrain Station in New Westminster.
The victim was treated in hospital and their condition has not been released. Police are searching for two men and a female teenager in that incident.
Metro Vancouver Transit Police said they used a Taser on a man who was shoving passengers on the Millennium SkyTrain Line in Burnaby on Monday morning.
When confronted by police at Lougheed Station, the man allegedly produced a knife and slashed an officer’s jacket. An officer also fired a gunshot, but the suspect wasn’t hit, police say, and the man was arrested.
The latest attack is the second serious stabbing in two weeks aboard a transit bus in Surrey, although the first victim, whose throat was slashed on April 1, is now recovering at home.
Police say there are “no indications” that the two bus attacks are “in any way connected.”
Abdul Aziz Kawam, the suspect in the April 1 throat-slashing, is scheduled to reappear in court in Surrey on Thursday.
Kawam is charged with attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon, all in association with the Islamic State terrorist group.
Jasmine Kaur Kochhar, an international student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, said she and many other students in the city depend on buses.
The attacks have definitely raised the level of concern among students, she said.
“Sometimes I’m getting home around 8:30 or 9 in the evening. So yes, for me as an individual, it is very concerning,” Kochhar said.
Kochhar said some students have started travelling in groups on transit whenever possible, for safety reasons.
There has also been a spate of knife attacks on Toronto public transport.
In late March, 16-year-old Gabriel Magalhaes was fatally stabbed in an apparently unprovoked attack at a Toronto subway station. A 22-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder in the case.
There had earlier been a string of violent incidents on Toronto transit, including the deadly stabbing of a woman on a subway train in December and a woman being stabbed in the head on a streetcar in late January.