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8 teenage girls in Toronto killed a man in a swarming attack. What is it?

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulJan 12, 2023 | 15:39

8 teenage girls in Toronto killed a man in a swarming attack. What is it?

Eight teenage girls who 'swarmed' a homeless man and stabbed him to death last month, have now been identified by the Toronto police. Here's a quick look at the increasing frequency of these crimes.

The 59-year-old homicide victim, now identified as Ken Lee, was fatally stabbed at a plaza near the main rail station in Toronto on December 18, 2022.

The eight alleged perpetrators aged between 13 and 16 are facing second-degree murder charges, though their identities are protected under the Canadian Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Lee was the 68th homicide to occur in Toronto in 2022.

However, swarming attacks have not been entirely unfamiliar for Canada. 

What is a swarming attack? Swarming attacks, also known as mobbing or pack attacks, are a type of assault in which a group of individuals attack an individual or small group. Different Canadian courts have described swarming as, or applied the term to a variety of different situations including:

  • Where victims are surrounded and their clothing or money torn from them by young gangs.
  • A group attacking an individual for the purpose of stealing something from that individual.
  • A group attacking an individual or group on account of a prior dispute.
  • An attack on an innocent stranger acting as a good Samaritan.
  • Young persons demanding money or items of clothing and then beating the individual following refusal.
  • An unprovoked attack, on a public street, by a group.

According to a paper by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, with the development of teenage gangs and groups in significant urban centres in Canada in the late 1980s, concerns of group assaults or swarmings initially surfaced. The growth of gangs in other Canadian towns during the 1990s has resulted in an increased reporting of assaults committed by gangs or other groups. 

Swarmings are not exclusive to gangs: Although swarmings are a tactic, they are not exclusive to gangs and take place when the gang structure is absent.

Many recorded swarmings are classified as impromptu, loosely coordinated, or spontaneous attacks. Racism, prejudice, or hatred of the victim or the group to which they belong to can occasionally serve as driving forces. Sometimes the onslaught seems to have no apparent purpose at all.

Blurred images taken from a video posted online show an attack against a teen in Surrey on Saturday night. A group of girls chased and cornered the victim against a fence at Hillcrest Elementary School. Photo: CBC News

Earlier in 2022, 12 teenagers were charged in connection with a series of swarming-style robberies in Vaughan, Canada and Canadian police had sounded the alarm for the public to remain vigilant amid an increase of these crimes.

    The rise of swarming attacks: One of the main reasons for the rise in swarming attacks in Canada is the proliferation of social media and mobile technology. These platforms provide a way for individuals to organise and coordinate attacks quickly and anonymously, making it easier for them to evade detection and prosecution. Additionally, the anonymity and distance afforded by the Internet can embolden individuals to engage in aggressive or violent behaviour that they may not otherwise engage in face-to-face.

    Bystander video shows a disturbing swarming attack in Emery Barnes Park in downtown Vancouver. Photo: CTV News

    The latest swarming attack: The eight teenage girls are believed to have met on social media before assembling from various parts of Toronto, though the motives are still uncertain.

    The ruthlessness of these surprise attacks on defenceless people who have no opportunity of protecting themselves is perhaps the most abhorrent part of these crimes. More often than not, the public is typically shocked by the trivial motives behind the attack when thievery is a driving force.

    Having resided for years in the city's shelter system, Lee attempted to stop the gang of teens from stealing a bottle of alcohol from a friend before being attacked, according to witnesses. He was brought to the hospital when bystanders called for paramedics, but died soon after.

    Swarming attacks are gradually becoming a serious problem in Canada that can have severe consequences if not put in check. 

    Last updated: January 12, 2023 | 15:39
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