British Columbia

Surrey announces new measures to curb gang violence

A new report from the City of Surrey recommends focusing on supporting police action and prevention efforts in a bid to tackle the city's ongoing struggle with gang violence.

Task force recommendations focus on preventing at-risk youth from finding their way into gang life

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner speaks to media about the findings of her task force on gang violence prevention in Surrey, B.C. (CBC)

A new report from the City of Surrey recommends focusing on supporting police action and prevention efforts in a bid to tackle the city's ongoing struggle with gang violence.

On Tuesday morning, the city released the findings of its task force on gang crime prevention, first struck in the fall of 2017 by Mayor Linda Hepner.

The task force has made six recommendations, many focused on preventing at-risk youth from finding their way into gang life in the first place.

These include creating a committee to develop and deliver prevention programs, partnering with the provincial and federal governments in prevention efforts, and supporting prevention and information efforts on the part of Surrey RCMP.

Mayor commends grassroots activism

Speaking to the press, Hepner noted that the city has seen a surge of grassroots activist efforts in recent weeks, in the wake of several recent murders.

"We're seeing rallies and forums ... that represent the interests of the people, and not just more events organized by government," Hepner said.

"We are devastated, but our commitment to tackling gang violence together is stronger than ever."

According to a release from the city, the six recommendations made by the report are:

  • The creation of a "middle years table" that will provide support and intervention services specifically for preteens and young teenagers
  • The establishment of a senior prevention coordinating committee to oversee prevention efforts
  • Partnerships with the provincial and federal government to develop community-specific programs
  • Supporting police education and information efforts
  • Lobbying the provincial government to expand the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit program
  • Working with RCMP to develop an "inadmissable patron program" for local businesses, similar to Bar and Restaurant Watch

Police, schools, former gang members consulted

Hepner said the task force took a "360 degree" approach to its research, which included consultations with police, schools, industry associations, community members, former gang members, media and all levels of government.

According to Hepner, the task force found that B.C.'s gang situation is unique in North America in that it tends to involve people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, as opposed to many other jurisdictions where gang members tend to come from lower income backgrounds.

Hepner pointed to the success of Surrey's Wrap program as illustrative of the power of preventative programs.

"You can't arrest your way out of the problem," Hepner said.

Parent doubtful

Surrey resident Gurpreet Toor doesn't have much faith in the announced changes and doesn't believe officials truly care about the community's youth.

He is a father of three boys — two of whom were involved in crime.

He said he was so worried about them that he asked for his sons to be arrested, but nothing was ever done.

"I was crying for both of my kids," Toor said. "Nobody talked to us about that."

Surrey father Gurpreet Toor is strongly critical of police and city efforts to protect youth in Surrey (CBC)

What would keep him and his wife awake at night, he said, was the sound of a siren in the distance and the thoughts those sounds would conjure.

"We always think they bring us … our kid and maybe they are dead."

Toor is critical of suggestions that parents aren't doing enough. Parents of crime-involved youth, he said, were always the most vocal about the issue.

What he doesn't understand, he says, is why police aren't doing a better job of protecting at-risk youth from the dangers of crime — especially if the police know those youth could wind up dead.

With files from Renee Filippone

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