Surrey mayor calls city's gun violence a 'regional' problem

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner is taking new measures to combat the city's gun violence, which she urged business leaders Tuesday to start addressing as a "regional" problem.

Mayor Linda Hepner announces new Bar Watch program and task force to review anti-violence services

Police at the scene of a shooting in Surrey, B.C. in July 2017. Surrey has recorded 31 shooting incidents so far this year. (Shane Mackichan)

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner is taking new measures to combat the city's gun violence, which she urged business leaders Tuesday to start addressing as a "regional" problem.

Hepner announced a new Bar Watch program to make criminals feel "unwelcome," plus a task force to review the city's anti-violence and gang services.

Gun violence has plagued Surrey in recent weeks — including three shootings over the span of 12 hours this month — but the 31 shooting incidents this year are a decrease from this time last year.

"This is not a Surrey problem. It's a regional problem," Hepner said Tuesday evening at a forum hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade.

"I want everyone in this room to start using the language about a regional problem, because it does affect an investment climate."

Hepner cited recent shootings in other municipalities such as Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and Abbotsford.

"It's everywhere. It takes a collaborative effort of everyone to really make a difference," Hepner told On the Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

Funding for anti-gang initiative

The NDP government also announced $500,000 of funding on Wednesday for Surrey's anti-gang program for youth, known as WRAP.

In a statement, public safety minister Mike Farnworth cited WRAP as a "successful program that identifies at-risk youth to help keep them out of gangs in the first place."

The funding will eliminate the wait list for WRAP, which has worked with 500 families and at-risk youth since 2009.

Hepner met with Farnworth earlier this month and said she needs more data about the city's anti-violence services before asking the province for more funding.

"I want to take a look with an open eye," Hepner said, referring to programs delivered by the city, police and non-profits.

"Are there any gaps in those programs? If there are, can we identify who's doing better work?"

Listen to the full interview with Linda Hepner below:

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner is taking new measures to combat the city’s gun violence, which she urged business leaders Tuesday to start addressing as a “regional” problem. 7:07

With files from CBC's On The Coast