SURREY (NEWS 1130) – People will be gathering near Surrey City Hall this evening, demanding politicians at all levels of government reveal what they’ve done to try to stop gang violence in the city.
“The purpose of this rally is to reach out to parents, police and politicians and tell them that they are not doing enough,” says Gurpreet Singh Sahota, one of the organizers of the WAKE UP! Rally.
Sahota — who is also the editor of two local Punjabi-language weekly newspapers — says they will be demanding their elected officials bring report cards showing how they have tried to stop violence in Surrey.
Last Monday, two teenagers were killed in what the RCMP says looks to be a targeted shooting. The bodies of 16 and 17 year old boys were found alongside a road in a rural area of Surrey. The Mounties had no previous dealings with the teens.
“The City of Surrey, the provincial government and the federal government are not giving enough resources. The school board has to do something,” he tells NEWS 1130. “There are some programs and some resources but there is no will.”
Sahota also believes Surrey should switch to a municipal police force.
“In Delta and Vancouver [which have their own forces] you can see police officers have local ties. When you have local ties, you’re raising your kids here, you work more for the community.”
Meanwhile, a high-profile voice says public pressure has yet to make a real difference in pushing politicians take effective action against gang violence south of the Fraser.
“Absolutely not. We started reforms and discussion groups in 2002 when I was with the Vancouver Police Department trying to get some action on the uptick in gang violence, especially in the South Asian community,” says Kash Heed, a former BC solicitor general and former Chief Constable of the West Vancouver Police.
Heed says it was a lot of talk among many groups and organizations but, at the end of the day, it really didn’t matter.
“Government did what it usually does, throwing a few dollars at it. An Indo-Canadian gang task force was created as a result of that but life goes on and murders continue to take place.”
Heed feels that politicians have tried to placate the community but the reality is that they are more interested in process than the outcome of any initiatives which have been put in place.
“We will continue to have to pick up the dead bodies, we’ll have to continue to deal with the shootings that are most often taking place in public places, putting the community at risk. There is no comprehensive plan to deal with this in an affective fashion,” he says.
“There is no political will to put this together. You will have politicians making their comments saying enough is enough but at the end of the day they will do very little.”
Heed believes that more efforts have to be made at the community level, with expanded anti-gang programs needed at the family and school levels.
“You need to make sure the community has resources to deal with it, focusing on the fact that we need these youths involved in positive behaviours.”
The WAKE UP! Rally is set to start at 6:00pm outside Surrey City Hall.
Organizers say anyone concerned with “the killings of children” should come out and make their voices heard.