British Columbia

B.C. Public Safety Minister says parents should play role in fighting violence

Minister Mike Morris says progress is being made to combat crime and gun violence in Surrey, B.C.

Over 40 confirmed shootings in Surrey so far this year

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Morris says there's a big role for parents to play in combatting crime and violence in Surrey. (Jared Thomas/CBC)

There have been over 40 reported shootings in Surrey, B.C. this year, and a July 25 shooting resulted in the death of an innocent bystander.

Despite this, Mike Morris, Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety in B.C., says progress is being made to cut down on violence in the city.

Stephen Quinn spoke with Morris on the CBC's The Early Edition.

This time last year, the number of shootings and homicides in Surrey led residents and critics to call it a "crisis of public safety." Are we still in that crisis?

I wish we could say that we're down to zero with all kinds of crime issues like the shootings and whatnot, but we're not.

We are working diligently on this. We've got some great work that's been done with people in custody awaiting charges, awaiting court cases. We are making progress on that front.

In April, the province announced an expansion of the gangs and guns strategy. How satisfied are you with how that program has run so far?

I'm satisfied.

That money went to fund a couple of additional units for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, we've got our dedicated crown counsel office coming along, and we've got our office of gang suppression and outreach well underway.

We're making steps forward.

Critics like NDP MLA for Surrey-Newton Harry Bains say resources are being misdirected from prevention to enforcement. Will there be more resources devoted to prevention?

We could always use more resources and we have to try and manage where we put our resources and try and get the biggest bang for that.

When I look at what's going on out there — the gang life, the street level criminals that are peddling drugs, and even the higher organizations that are distributing drugs — they are going towards young people and getting them involved.

We have to combat that.

But there's a big role for parents to play in this as well. When your son comes home and he's driving a $75,000 truck and you don't know where he got it from, it's time to start asking questions.

What kinds of supports exist for parents?

They can contact the Surrey RCMP, who have a line that parents can call in and I'm sure they'll be able to find someone in the community who can help out on that.

You know even parents talking to one another on how they can move forward on this is a good thing. They need to start talking to somebody.

Surrey RCMP report that the majority of these shootings are targeted ones between drug gangs operating in the city. But the latest victim was an innocent bystander. What do you tell residents who are afraid to walk around their community?

Surrey is a safe community. There's been an increase in these kinds of activities across the country, and across North America, but most of these offenses are committed by a very small group of individuals.

With our provincial targeted enforcement program, we've identified who the prolific offenders are, and we've got all kinds of resources on them.

Is there an opportunity for them to slip through the cracks once in a while? Yeah, there is, unfortunately, and we've got to try and find ways to plug those cracks up.

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Mike Morris, minister for public safety, on combatting crime and gun violence