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The police emphasize that the victims received WhatsApp calls as well as text messages asking them for large sums of money.
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Edmonton police have set up a task force to investigate a possible extortion scheme linked to arson attacks targeting members of the South Asian community. The investigation concerns in particular 18 fires that have occurred since October in the towns and surrounding areas.
In a press release published Wednesday, the Edmonton Police Service points out that the victims received calls by WhatsApp as well as text messages asking them for large sums of money. Messages sometimes contained personal information about the targeted victim, including information about their family members, vehicles, and habits.
Failure to pay the requested amount results in arson or other property damage to new construction, show homes and related property.
A quote from The Police Department Edmonton
A spokesperson for the Edmonton Fire Rescue Services notes that' between November 1 and January 2, nine fires broke out in new homes or homes under construction.
All but one of the fires are considered criminal. They damaged 14 houses and a garage.
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Most of the fires took place in developing suburbs like Aster , Laurel, Woodhaven Edgemont and Cy Becker. The Edmonton Fire Department also noted fires in the central area of King Edward Park and the university area.
In Edmonton, police say there have been new cases of money extortion, leading to escalating violence and drive-by shootings.
No injuries were reported reported in those incidents, but a 20-year-old man was charged after shots were fired at a Laurel-area home on October 19.
A 19-year-old man was also arrested in December on five firearms charges.
In addition, four other young people, two aged 18, one aged 19 and a minor, are the subject of ;#x27;arson charges in connection with a fire last month in the northeast Cy Becker neighborhood.
Police are asking anyone who has received threats or who has additional information about these incidents to contact them.
These incidents appear to follow a trend across the country as several police services, notably those in Ontario and British Columbia, have observed similar incidents .
North of Toronto, Peel Regional Police formed a team last month to investigate a trend worrying pattern of extortion attempts primarily targeting members of [the] South Asian business community.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Surrey, British Columbia, also issued a news release in November about extortion cases targeting business owners throughout the Lower Mainland and asked all victims to come forward.
With information from Madeline Smith