Surrey parents are asking police to help keep their kids away from gangs
17 families have called the Surrey RCMP's new parent hotline over the last month
The Surrey RCMP is using a new tool to keep young people away from gangs: a hotline for parents.
Last month, police introduced a 24 hour hotline for mothers and fathers to call if they are concerned a child is involved in gangs.
"To date, we have been in contact with 17 separate families," says Officer in Charge of the Surrey RCMP, Bill Fordy.
"They have reached out to us on our help line to speak specifically with our youth officers and the staff that we have working with our youth officers."
There have been 40 shootings in Surrey so far this year and police blame much of the violence on the low-level drug trade.
Many of the players involved are teens or in their early twenties, which is one of the reasons the B.C. government is creating a gang 'exit program.'
"Once you get into a gang type of activity, there are a lot of threats on you to stay," says B.C. Solicitor General Mike Morris.
"There is a lot of pressure to keep these people within the confines of gang activity. There is no way out? There is a way out. I want to emphasize that. There is a way out of gang life."
Morris is working with B.C.'s anti-gang police agency, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, to develop the scope and parameters of the program.
Boots in classrooms
The RCMP's crackdown on street-level drug dealers has led to 18 arrests over the last three weeks, but no one has been charged in any of the shootings.
While investigators are out trying to break up dial-a-dope lines, work is also being done on crime prevention.
Fordy says they've created community engagement teams who'll be talking to parents, teens and kids at community events. They also have a youth fitness program and a school sports program.
Community activist and filmmaker Mani Amar says he's impressed with what the RCMP is doing but he would still like to see more officers in high schools.
"That's huge. We can view these youngsters right away and say this one needs more support," he says.
"Maybe this one needs more help in this area. Having police there does go a long way. It also demystifies the whole [idea] that cops are against us and they're not our friends."