SURREY (NEWS 1130) – If Surrey wants tackle gangs and violence within its borders, it should focus on children and early prevention to keep them from a life of crime, according to a group tasked with analyzing the problem.
In its first report since its formation back in October, the Mayor’s Task Force on Gang Violence Prevention made six recommendations, half of which are aimed at kids.
Mayor Linda Hepner says early intervention is key to keeping kids from going into gangs in the first place.
“It scares the daylights when I look at my grandchildren and I think how impressionable young people can be and so the lure of that and getting stuck… I think that’s scary,” Hepner said following the release of the report Tuesday. “I can’t believe that a 10 or 11 year old would be recruited into doing something that entraps them into a situation where they would not have the intellectual resource to find a way out.”
The first recommendation calls for the creation of a Middle Years Table which would provide youth with age-appropriate supports. Another calls for programs which are more culturally and racially sensitive.
The province is also putting up $1.12 million to expand the Expect Respect and a Safe Education (ERASE) anti-bullying program. It says this program will help deter teens from getting into gang activity.
A third recommendation include partnering with the province and Ottawa to look at neighbourhood-specific prevention, as well as the creation of a Centre for Community Safety to create and manage anti-violence programs. Hepner says the city has just finalized the details of the plans for the centre and expects it to be up and running by the fall.
“If we focus only on enforcement and intervention, it’s often too little and often far too late,” Hepner said. “Enforcement is a piece of it, so is gang exiting, but quite frankly, you can’t simply arrest your way out of the problem.”
4- neighbourhood specific programming as some more vulnerable than others (see photo). Includes new Surrey Centre for Community Safety. Hub to implement recommendations.
5- Double Gang Enforcement Unit
6- New Inadmissible Patrons Program. Police can ban gangs from certain places pic.twitter.com/U3Or6meAJA
— Lasia Kretzel (@lkretzel1130) July 3, 2018
However, enforcement is getting a boost.
Work is underway to double the size of the Surrey RCMP’s gang enforcement unit, putting more officers on the streets.
The task force would also like the city to petition the province for permanent, ongoing funding for the gang exiting program, which helps people leave gang life.
The report comes a day after a survey found most people in Surrey believe the city is one of the most dangerous in the region. Fifty-five per cent of those responding to the Research Co. survey said public safety is worse in Surrey than in other Metro Vancouver municipalities.
Other proposals include more support for local law enforcement through educational campaigns and the creation of an Inadmissible Patron Program (IPP) where business owners and police could ban gang members from their establishments. The program would be similar to Vancouver’s BarWatch.
It’s about time, says BarWatch chair
BarWatch has been operating in cities like Vancouver for years, and according to its chair — it’s working.
Curtis Robinson says for the IPP be successful in Surrey, one thing that needs to happen is gangsters and criminals need to be banned completely from the premises.
“Because we know from our experience that if you are that special person that decides to involve themselves in gang-crime activity, you need the rock star lifestyle, if you take that away from these people it will work,” he says.
Robinson says he’s met with Surrey RCMP on a number of occasions and wonders why it’s taken so long for the city to implement something like this.
There have still been no arrests made after two teens were shot and killed in June.
An ER nurse and children’s hockey coach was also shot and killed in front of his home in Clayton Heights a couple of weeks ago.
The Surrey RCMP has responded to 25 shootings or shots fired calls so far this year.
– With files from Denise Wong