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Teens' deaths highlight need for youth anti-gang programs, says BC's public safety minister

Jaskarn Jason Jhutty (left) and Jaskaran Jesse Bhangal are shown in Integrated Homicide Investigation Team handout photos. Homicide detectives say the two teenagers are the victims of a targeted shooting in a rural area of Surrey, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Integrated Homicide Investigation Team MANDATORY CREDIT

Recent killings of two Surrey teens shows more anti-gang programs are needed for youth: BC minister

Mike Farnworth wants more funding for anti-gang programs aimed at young people following double killing in Surrey

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – The targeted killing of two teenagers south of the Fraser last week is reinforcing the need for anti-gang programs aimed at youth, according the province’s public safety minister.

The bodies of Jaskarn “Jason” Jhutty, 16, and Jaskarn “Jesse” Bhangal, 17, were found Monday on a rural stretch of road in Surrey. Investigators say the killings were targeted, but haven’t said if they were gang related. The boys were not known to police.

“I think it reinforces the need for active preventative programs to warn, young people in particular, about the dangers of gang lifestyle and the dangers of becoming involved with gangs,” explains Mike Farnworth.

He points to programs such as Surrey’s Wraparound program as successes that require additional supports to prevent kids from turning to gangs.

“I think it’s been quite successful. That’s why there has been a big push on it from the school district and RCMP,” adds Farnworth.

The Wraparound, or Wrap, program offers counselling, recreational activities, mentoring, substance abuse and mental health assistance for students who show signs of gang-associated behaviour. It’s a partnership between the Surrey School District, the City of Surrey and the Surrey RCMP.

Last October, the province announced $500,000 in annual funding for the program. Farnworth says the additional funding has enabled them to reduce the wait list from 70 to under a dozen while expanding services.

“What’s really needed is a multi-pronged approach that involves all levels of government and the community because there’s no one single answer to dealing with this issue,” says Farnworth.

He points out the province has been working to secure a portion of the $380 million announced by the federal government to combat illegal firearms and gangs. BC is also working with local governments to find additional initiatives, according to Farnworth.

As for parents, the minister recommends they take an active role and interest in their child’s life and know who their friends are.

Meantime, the investigation continues into the killings of those two teens. Anyone with information is asked to call the IHIT tipline at 1.877.551.IHIT (4448) or Crime Stoppers at 1.800.222.TIPS.