Intervention, prevention among goals of anti-gang funds for Surrey: MP

‘We need to do, in some instances, more than monitor and control’

When it comes to getting teens away from a gang lifestyle, it takes more than a ‘monitor-and-control’ approach, says South Surrey-White Rock MP Gordie Hogg.

And Hogg is hopeful that new federal funding announced this week will go a long way towards developing more effective strategies for prevention, intervention and enforcement.

“We’ve got about 10 kids on probation in Surrey who are at such high risk that they’ve been removed from school, they’re not allowed to attend school,” Hogg told Peace Arch News Tuesday.

“In many cases, probation officers will not meet with them at their offices, they’ll only meet with them at the police station. Monitor and control them is what they’re trying to do, and we need to do, in some instances, more than monitor and control.

“Hopefully, some of these monies will go to more active intervention strategies.”

Monday, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair announced $5.3 million in funding over the next two years for B.C. projects aimed at tackling gun and gang violence.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has said the injection will be used to set up a firearms lab and provide grants to communities struggling with the crimes – a concern that has been raised time and again in Surrey, particularly in recent years.

READ MORE: Surrey Gang Enforcement Unit arrest man with Lower Mainland gang ‘associations’

Hogg told PAN the pool of money for Surrey isn’t precise, and hasn’t been earmarked for a specific program or initiative in the city.

“The whole practice or principle that federal government uses is the belief that local communities have the best knowledge with respect to what their needs are,” he said.

He noted the funds follow $7.5 million in federal monies announced in January for the Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment (SAFE) program.

Developed out of the Mayor’s Task Force on Gang Violence Prevention and funded under the National Crime Prevention Strategy, SAFE provides at-risk youth with wholesome alternatives in an effort to steer them away from joining gangs and getting involved in drugs.

As many as 4,730 Surrey teens are expected to benefit from it.

Blair said at that time that SAFE was developed “specifically for Surrey in response to the urgent need for a co-ordinated approach to address gang violence and to disrupt the pathways young people take toward joining gangs and the gang lifestyle.”

Hogg said Tuesday the latest funding “may well augment some of the programs that Surrey is looking at, or some new ones.”

“We certainly know in Surrey… how many gang members there are, we know there are some interventions that can take place.

“As they start to evolve this… hopefully, we can start to target and focus on those gang members and look at some types of the exit programs that can be effective in getting them out.”

Research from as far away as London, England and as close as Simon Fraser University has all shown the combination of prevention, intervention and enforcement to bear fruit in tackling the problem, Hogg said.

He pointed to grassroots efforts in Chicago and Australia, where mentoring programs have been developed that connect former gang members with current gang members, and parents of youth who’ve escaped the lifestyle with parents of youth who are embroiled in it as examples of programs that are “showing some pretty promising results.”

A broader look at how to address handguns is also underway, Hogg said, noting he’s impressed with the South Asian community’s acknowledgment of the issue’s prevalence amongst their youth – statistics show about 40 per cent of kids on probation in Surrey are South Asian, Hogg noted – and the interest shown in wanting to address it.

“We need to raise awareness, we need to give them tools and show them how we can work at it,” Hogg said. “That can’t just be enforcement and police, because that’s at the far end of it.”

Hogg said he would also like to see the act of luring into the gang lifestyle added to the Criminal Code of Canada, just as individuals who recruit people to the sex trade can be charged. One conviction “would set an example,” he said.

“Targeted” violence has been blamed for a number of shooting deaths in Surrey in recent years, including the mistaken-identity killing last June of Peace Arch Hospital staffer Paul Bennett in Cloverdale, and, less than two months earlier, the April 26 shooting death of 24-year-old Amin Vinepal. Vinepal’s body was found on a rural stretch of 12 Avenue between 176 and 184 streets.

READ MORE: Murdered Surrey hockey coach and nurse was ‘innocent victim’ of mistaken identity, police say

READ MORE: UPDATE: South Surrey homicide victim identified

Blair said shootings have become the largest category of homicide in the country.

Farnworth said a pre-fabricated firearms lab obtained with the new funding will aid investigations of gun crime by enhancing analysis of recovered firearms and helping provide “timely, province-wide certification analysis and tracing of firearms.”

He emphasized the efforts B.C. already has in place to keep young people from getting involved in drug gangs.

“This new funding… will help us with a made-in-B.C. approach that addresses B.C.’s unique gang culture,” he said. “It will be used to emphasize community engagement, focusing on select priority communities in B.C. that are struggling with serious and organized crime.”

– with files from

Tom Fletcher

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Cloverdale resident Paul Bennett was shot to death last June, in what police later confirmed was a case of mistaken identity. (Facebook photo)

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