'The community has got to be involved:' mayor praises Wake Up, Surrey's mobilization against gang violence
'Wake Up, Surrey is a really good nomenclature for what's going on right now,' Linda Hepner says
A Surrey grassroots movement aimed at stopping gang violence is creating summer programs to steer youths away from crime.
The group Wake Up, Surrey announced Thursday that it is partnering with the City of Surrey, RCMP and the Surrey School District to create programs that include mentoring, volunteering and community service.
The same group organized a rally against gun and gang violence last week, which was attended by thousands of people, in response to the murders of two Surrey teenagers on June 4.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner spoke to Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's On The Coast, about Wake Up, Surrey's initiatives and what the city is doing to stop gang violence.
What do you think about the work the Wake Up, Surrey group has done?
What they've done is mobilize the community, and I think that galvanizing the community to do their part along with law enforcement, and along with the schools, that is the answer. The community has got to be involved.
In terms of getting some volunteer efforts from the youth that are in various programs now or are being identified by the school, I think those are good things. I am supportive of what Wake Up, Surrey is doing.
How did we get to this point? What has it taken for this community to mobilize now?
The deaths, the most recent murder of the two young boys. I think it's the age of the kids.
We have seen targeted hits throughout this region… we have never seen something that has been so catastrophic… This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Wake Up, Surrey is a really good nomenclature for what's going on right now.
You met the group. What was talked about?
I've got a gang task force that has been looking at this phenomenon over the past year and it's made up of most of the social programs in the city. We've got a pretty good handle and I'll be releasing a report in the next couple of weeks, of where we are and what we are within this region.
We've never had the level of individuals, friends, family members, community leaders, that say they must, and they will do their part to, rid this scourge.
Wake Up, Surrey is asking you to host a community roundtable with the federal and provincial ministers of public safety. Will you do that?
There has been a disconnect within the various levels of government and I don't think they realize how much work we've actually done with those levels of government.
I've already had in my task force representation from every level of government.
We're in constant conversation, so I don't mind hosting another meeting. We're always open to that.
One of the big concerns from the group and others — like the Surrey police chief — is having more police officers on the ground. Is this something that the city supports?
The calls for a municipal police force are not new. Maybe it is time we take another look at that, but… it's important to note that we currently spend half of the city's operating budget on public safety.
We'll always need more police officers. That will be part of the budget discussion and I will leave that to a new mayor and a new council.
You have announced that you're not running in the next municipal election. What would you like to cross off the list before you leave office?
With respect to public safety, I want that gang task force to implement the various programs that we've been identifying where there are gaps. I want those in play.
This interview aired on On The Coast on June 21 and has been edited for clarity and structure. To hear the complete interview, click on the audio below.