New task force in the works to address Surrey drug and gun violence

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Business owners, local council, politicians and concerned neighbours discussed gun and drug violence in Surrey last night, as the province promises a $500,000 investment into anti-gang programs for young people in the area.

Surrey’s Mayor Linda Hepner says the city is working on creating a new task force. She says it will examine all programs and services currently offered to see whether there are any gaps and opportunities to advance them at a regional level.

“I’m going to include the media, I’m going to include citizens, I’m going to include the different levels of government and the various agencies that provide some of the services that help us run our programs,” she explains.

“As a politician, what we do is develop policy. So I have to make sure our [police] are resourced as well as they can be resourced, and that we’re providing at the community level the kind of programs and services that will advantage our people.”

BC’s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and members of the “Surrey Accord”, say the province is taking immediate action by asking Ottawa for tougher drug dealer penalties, a larger RCMP complement in BC, and a fair share of Canada’s guns and gangs funding.

The Surrey Wraparound (Wrap) program is receiving an addition $250,000 civil forfeiture grant from the BC Government to help at-risk youth avoid gang life.

This is in addition of another $250,000 grant provided earlier this summer.

“To help eliminate the wait list and accommodate more youth in this great program,” explains Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. This means at least 35 more kids will get to join the 97 students already involved in the Wrap. 

“It was a key priority when I met with [Mayor Hepner], who was a strong advocate for the need for this funding. It was something that we raised during the election campaign as a campaign commitment.” 

The funds will come from proceeds seized in criminal investigations.

Gurdip Sahota, a realtor in the South Surrey area, says though he shares the same concerns as others when it comes to recent violence, he’s pleased with how issues are being dealt with overall. 

“I do feel safe, and I have every confidence in the police and that they’re there to protect our community and our businesses,” says Sahota. 

He’s lived in Surrey for 28 years and claims the city has seen a big change over the years.

“Community policing and the spreading out of the police stations into the town centres, and the visible nature especially for example in the Newton area, where we have a lot of bicycle patrols and also community volunteers who are out patrolling,” he explains. “There is a very visible component to that, and so that obviously translates into a sense of security in the community.”

Meanwhile, Kultarjit Singh Thiara has been doing business in Surrey for the past 20 years.

“I feel concerned as a parent, as a business owner, as a citizen of Surrey,” he says, but agrees the problem isn’t one that’s isolated to his community. “It’s a big problem at the country level, we need to have bigger punishments and more funds should be coming from federal and provincial governments to the city government, to the mayor and council.”

Despite concerns, he says people are becoming more aware about on-going violence. 

“Everybody’s more helpful and coming in front of especially these kind of events, ultimately we will find a solution.”

The RCMP says safety is something everyone can play a role in.

“Policing ultimately is a shared responsibility, and success on this issue and other public safety issues when we work together and not in isolation,” explains Officer in Charge and Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald. 

“Most of the work we do…  the crime data is analyzed and we target specific areas… In the absence of having that data, we can’t deploy effectively.”

He says businesses should report anything suspicious, no matter how small or irrelevant workers might think the situation is.

“Even something as simple as a garage break-in, where some tools are taken that have no value that might cause insurance claims to go up. People often don’t report that, but we can’t fight the crime we don’t know about.”

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