Thursday, November 11, 2010

Random attacks not gang-style

Nov 11, 2010

Gang attacks are usually pre-planned, say puzzled experts

By Jeremy Au Yong & Ang Yiying

GANG attacks take planning.

Leaders pick the target, perhaps someone from a rival gang or someone who had insulted them, and then call in gang members who they think should be in the mission.

If two gangs are headed for a face-off, a venue away from the public eye is set.

This, at least, is how youth counsellors and those familiar with gangs understand how such groups work.

Mr Yusof Ismail, chief executive of Ain Society, a group that helps troubled youth, said: 'When it comes to gangs, there's no such thing as 'random'. Going out carrying weapons is risky for them. Everything is premeditated.'

This is why people like him are puzzled by the seemingly random nature of Monday's attacks in Bukit Panjang, in which seven youths were set upon and slashed by parang-wielding men in two separate incidents.

The first victim was a 20-year-old walking on a dimly lit jogging track. A group of teenagers, resting in a basketball court after a game of football, became the other victims. They said it was only the second time they had played there.

The counsellors threw up theories about what might have happened.

Mr Yusof's hunch for the Bukit Panjang attack on the youths in the basketball court: a case of mistaken identity.

'It could be that a different group of boys who normally play football there had insulted the gang,' he suggested.

[Like he said, a real gang identifies the target. Mistaken identity is less likely with a real gang, and they don't operate that way.]

A second theory offered for the attacks is that the perpetrators are not part of an actual gang and so do not follow gang 'etiquette'; unlike typical gangs, these groups may be prepared to launch unprovoked attacks.

Mr Mani Joseph, assistant director of AWWA Family Service Centre, said some groups arise from youths who begin hanging out together, bound by a common interest.

[Or a common lack of direction.]

They adopt a gang name only later. Taking the name of a notorious gang has the effect of evoking 'power and fear', said Mr Joseph, who has worked with young people for more than 20 years.

'They may not be affiliated directly to these gangs, and they create their own code of ethics,' he added. Making brazen attacks was a way of asserting their power.

Ms Muzaiyanah Hamzah, president of Clubilya, a group that works with troubled youth, told The Straits Times that she started noticing such faux gangs cropping up two to three years ago.

These groups are structured loosely, without the rigid hierarchy of the gangs whose names they borrow.

They share neither a gang ideology nor loyalty to one another. Members switch groups at will.

Without a specific 'turf', they are known to roam, flitting from basketball court to void deck to cyber cafe.

Ms Muzaiyanah said: 'I don't know what to call them. They aren't really gangs. They are loose groupings. They may have one or two former members of a gang, but that's it.'

This very lack of structure could be at the bottom of random, senseless attacks, she said. 'They'll go out and if they find a rival gang, good. If not, they may bash anybody.'

[Call them hooligans. And when they go "wilding" it really doesn't matter who they meet.]

Some Bukit Panjang residents felt that the attacks might not be that random after all. By attacking innocent people, gang members might be trying to catch the attention of real rival gang targets and force them to come out and fight.

[Stupid theory. How would it force rival gangs to come out? What affinity do the gangs have with innocent victims? "Wah you very good at beating up innocent people ah? I'll beat up more innocent people than you to prove that I am more Pai Kia than you!" Then residents should be really afraid. The retaliatory attacks could be on more random passer-bys.]

Ms Joyce Chan, executive director of Teen Challenge, another group that works with youth at risk of being led astray, offered another possibility: 'For all we know, these kids could be under the influence of alcohol or drugs if incidents like this happen.'

[Another stupid speculation.]

The counsellors urged young people to protect themselves from random attacks by avoiding confrontation at all costs.

[Really? Great advice. Tell that to the technician who was just trying to go home.]

Spend time in safe spaces like youth centres, suggested Ms Muzaiyanah. 'Youth centres aren't what they used to be. They are cooler now. Youths should give them a chance.'

Nov 11, 2010
Bukit Panjang attacks: 6 held

SIX youths were arrested yesterday over two cases of armed rioting in Bukit Panjang on Monday.

Aged between 15 and 23, they were rounded up in a 24-hour swoop by officers from the Secret Societies Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Jurong Police Division.

The six are believed to be behind the attacks which left seven youths injured.

At about 10pm on Monday, a group armed with parangs and choppers first attacked a 20-year-old man at Block 418, Fajar Road.

The group is believed to have then attacked six teenage boys at Block 505, Jelapang Road.

The 20-year-old is in hospital with injuries to his legs and back, while the others needed treatment.

The Straits Times learnt yesterday that there was a third, earlier incident on Monday evening, in which a group of youths attacked a teenager near the spot where the slashings later took place.

It is believed that all the attacks could be linked.

So far, police have not found any evidence connecting the Bukit Panjang attacks to the Oct 30 Downtown East murder of student Darren Ng, 19.

CID director Ng Boon Gay said yesterday that all gang behaviour would be dealt with firmly and decisively.

'Youth offenders involved in violent crimes must be warned that they will not be treated lightly simply because of their age,' he said in a statement.

'There is no excuse for violence and no leniency for those who disregard the law.'

Nov 11, 2010

Fifth youth charged with gang murder

Drama outside court as 19 supporters end up arrested too

By Khushwant Singh

A FIFTH person was yesterday charged with causing the Oct 30 death of polytechnic student Darren Ng in Downtown East - but there was drama outside the courtroom too.

Nineteen youths who turned up to support Louis Tong Qing Yao when he appeared before a district court also ended up being arrested.

[Applause! Bravo!]

The 19 males aged between 17 and 22 are believed to be gang members.

For the first time yesterday, the police indicated that the dead youth might have been involved in gang activity himself.

[Confirming rumours that have been circulating.]

He was chased by a group of youths with choppers and hacked to death in the main foyer of the Downtown East entertainment hub between 5.30pm and 5.37pm on Oct 30.

In a statement, the police said that investigations into the incident have shown that the murder was connected to 'gang-related disputes involving the deceased, victims and assailants'.

Initial media reports that the murder arose from a 'staring incident' were unfounded, the police added.

[Good to know. Now I can stare at people again.]

The police warned that gang behaviour would be dealt with firmly and decisively, and that included acting against those who turn up in force at the courts as a show of support for fellow gangsters.

Criminal Investigation Department director and Senior Assistant Commissioner of police Ng Boon Gay said young offenders involved in violent crimes would not be treated lightly simply because of their age.

They can expect to face the full brunt of the law, including the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, which allows for detention without trial.

Yesterday, Tong, 16, became the latest and youngest so far to be charged with Mr Ng's murder while being part of an unlawful assembly.

Tong, who looked expressionless in the dock, also faces three loan-shark harassment charges. He allegedly scribbled graffiti and splashed paint after midnight on Nov 2.

He is said to have scrawled 'O$P$' - which means 'owe money, pay money' - with an indelible marker at Bishan, Serangoon North and Hougang.

At the flat in Hougang, he also splashed black paint on its door and windows.

He joins four others who were charged last week with Mr Ng's murder: Chen Wei Zhen, 19, Tang Jia Min, 21, Ho Wui Ming, 20, and Edward Tay Wei Loong, 18.

Tay, who is in hospital with injuries from a fall while trying to escape arrest, was yesterday ordered remanded for two weeks. The others will be produced in court again on Tuesday.

When Tong was brought into the dock, at least five people who appeared to be his friends were in court, seated in a row.

They were spotted trying to make eye contact with Tong but he did not seem to see them. Another group remained outside.

The smaller group inside the courtroom left after Tong was led away for further investigations.

Passer-by Steven Chow, 62, told The Straits Times that he saw more than a dozen young men gathered at the side of the Subordinate Courts building at about 10am.

'They were all young and appeared to be taking instructions from a tall guy,' said Mr Chow, who lives near the courts.

He heard from friends that they were later arrested.

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