Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner in a file photo.

Surrey mayor asks feds for $10M to combat gang problems

Ask comes after a task force aimed at preventing gang violence issued a report

The mayor of Surrey says she will ask the federal government for $10 million in funding for anti-gang programs in British Columbia’s fastest-growing city, where people are dealing with “emotional upheaval” after recent acts of gun violence.

Linda Hepner said Tuesday the money would be spent over five years after a task force aimed at preventing gang violence issued a report with six recommendations, including an expanded gang exit and outreach program that has been led by a combined police and border services unit for about 18 months in the province.

“We first piloted it and it’s the only one in the country that I know of,” Hepner said.

“In less than two years, it’s actually worked with more than 100 people that are in gangs. They’ve actually now got a chance to be part of a gang free future but that is in jeopardy because we need funding for that.”

Hepner said “dozens” of people have left gangs because of the program, which the province has committed to funding until the end of the year.

Surrey residents have held anti-violence rallies calling for action, including more RCMP officers, after two teenage boys were recently found shot to death on a rural road and a father and hockey coach was gunned down outside a home.

The task force, which Hepner led after launching it last October, also recommended more police enforcement and the launch of an initiative that would allow nightclubs and other businesses to ban alleged gangsters.

The expansion of early intervention programs to deter children from entering the gang lifestyle was among the recommendations, and Hepner said some kids lured into gangs are as young as 10 and come from a range of backgrounds.

“The profile is so different in British Columbia than anywhere else in North America,” she said. “They could be affluent, they could be poor, they could be middle income. They run the gamut here.”

Hepner said youths are joining gangs for difference reasons.

“Generally, those that are more affluent are out for glory and glamour,” she said. “The ones that are in more vulnerable economic circumstances have often been subject to trauma. Lots of them are subject to seeing domestic abuse, some of them not feeling that they fit in culturally and don’t feel part of the community.”

Other recommendations include the development of strategies to help at-risk children and their families, as well as stronger neighbourhood-based and culturally appropriate programs.

The mayor is also calling for more funding from the provincial government.

The Public Safety Ministry announced $1.12 million in funding Tuesday to expand an anti-bullying program based in schools called Expect Respect and a Safe Education, or ERASE, in communities across the province where gang-affiliated behaviours have been identified. It said the strategy is designed to prevent, identify and stop harmful behaviours, whether they occur in school or online.

The task force in Surrey included citizens, people from the business community, police and a local member of Parliament. It said RCMP statistics suggest gang members involved in conflicts between 2014 and 2016 were age 23 on average and had committed their first criminal offence at the average age of 16.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

BX wildfire holding at 1.2 hectares

Blaze now 1.2 hectares, several other small fires burning in region

Search and Rescue home sought

Alternate approval process being used to borrow $3.5 million for Vernon society

Okanagan residents urged to FireSmart their homes

Regional District of North Okanagan available to help neighbourhoods and groups achieve FireSmart practices

Coldstream standoff defendant faces sentencing hearing

Kelly Blake Torvik’s matter moved to judicial case manager’s office to set sentencing date

Search underway for missing Lumby man

John Keeley is believed to have been kayaking in Mabel Lake near Lumby.

BC Games: Dance, spoken-word highlights at Opening Ceremony in Cowichan

Hundreds of athletes and thousands of volunteers, coaches, parents and officials

Law Creek wildfire forces evacuation alert in West Kelowna

A blaze in West Kelowna has put 198 properties on an evacuation alert

1,490 Peachland residents put on evacuation alert

The Mount Eneas wildfire has forced an evacuation alert of 596 properties

B.C. city wants pot punted from farmland

Concerned about conversion from growing food to making marijuana

Lakeshore Drive businesses ‘prepared not scared’ in wake of wildfire

Wineries along with a boutique dairy farm are preparing for worst

Centre set up for Summerland wildfire evacuees

Summerland Emergency Support Services has processed 55 people from 16 households

Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire now an estimated 400 hectares

BC Wildfire is on scene of what is being called the Good Creek blaze

Flicked cigarette butt sparks small fire

The cigarette would have added fuel to the fire if it wasn’t for good samaritans

On the street: Kelowna reacts to 2018 wildfires

BC Wildfire is working with local departments to battle multiple blazes near Kelowna.

Most Read