Funds and RCMP presence increased
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer
The City of Surrey has always faced a problem with gang violence, which has led to a significant number of shootings and increased fear from residents of both Surrey and the rest of the Lower Mainland in the last three months.
Since early March, Surrey has had a reported 30 shootings. According to RCMP investigation, the vast majority of these shootings are linked to violence between feuding groups of South Asian and Somalian gangs. Only one of these shootings has resulted in a death.
Although many of the shootings involved vehicles and occurred in daylight, police have been unable to track perpetrators or cars involved. However, the crimes are believed to be a result of drug-trafficking activity, and the RCMP have arrested several males in connection with drug and weapon charges and released a list of five suspects known to be involved in gang activity. Police are working closely with Somalian and Sikh community leaders to investigate.
Proactive responses to the increased shootings have come from all levels of government. In a press statement, MP and Minister of National Revenue Kerry-Lynne Findlay reported an allocation of funds and police presence. These resources included 100 new RCMP officers in Surrey, bringing the total close to 800. These fall short of Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner’s original request of 130 new officers.
In addition, Ottawa has approved $3.5-million over five years to the city to be used for the Surrey Gang Reduction Program run by the Surrey School District. This program specifically targets 400 at-risk youth who may fall victim to joining gangs.
The Wraparound Program is another school district-led organization that works with youth currently involved in criminal or gang activity. Last month, the BC government announced a one-time funding allotment of $270,000 to Wraparound. There is reportedly a waitlist of roughly 45 students to get into the program; it is hoped that the new funds will eliminate the waitlist.
Findlay was unclear about the exact time period that the new RCMP officers will begin patrolling Surrey. In a press conference, she stated “They will be here, we hope, sooner rather than later, but there is a process between governments that’s being worked out right now […] We know this is a very real community concern.” It is known all officers will be deployed no more than 12 months after the funding is released in Ottawa.