The province is pouring $23 million into gang enforcement over the next three years, the premier announced in Surrey on Friday.
Premier Christy Clark stood on the lawn of Surrey’s RCMP E-Division headquarters in Green Timbers Urban Forest Friday to commit the money for police teams and prosecutors to help combat gang involvement in the province.
Flanked by high-ranking RCMP officers and police chiefs throughout the region, Clark said the violence associated with gangs will come to an end.
“What’s happening with gangs is not a Surrey problem, it’s a British Columbia problem,” Clark said. “We know that when we undertake tough enforcement in one city, many of those gangs and gang members – just like cockroaches – find their way to other cities around the province.
“We need to be integrated in our approach to gangs.”
The $23 million will fund a three-pronged approach to ending violence, which has been particularly evident in Surrey, which has seen 32 shootings so far this year.
The first pillar is investigation, apprehension and prosecution of gangsters.
To that end, two 10-man teams will be added to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CSFEU), the province’s integrated anti-gang unit.
In 2014, B.C. cut $2.8 million from the CFSEU budget, saying that in tough economic times, the province had to live within its means.
The new funding announced this week will also pay for a dedicated prosecutor in Surrey to work primarily with the gang and shooting files.
Another pillar deals with “community engagement” and calls for the establishment of a new Office of Crime Reduction and Gang Outreach to help people involved in criminal activities escape gang life.
It also calls for a Firearms Task Force to strengthen provincial and federal programs around illegal guns.
In addition, an extra $450,000 is being tabled to support Crime Stoppers to offer more cash for tips about illegal firearms.
The final pillar calls for legislation that will support potential outreach programs and examine ways to further restrict gangsters’ tools of the trade.
“The people of Surrey should know this: We will not rest until we put an end to this cycle of violence, in this city, and cities all across the province,” Clark said. “We are going to give the RCMP, and police forces, the support that they need to go after these low-life, low-level criminals who are making people feel unsafe.”
Harry Bains, the NDP MLA for Surrey-Newton, said after the announcement the news is welcome, but he wants to see more proactive resources.
“We need to put more resources in prevention, more resources in education, so we don’t have to react the way we are reacting,” Bains said.
Sue Hammell, NDP MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, said she’s glad there are more resources on the way, but she said the measures come a little late.
Hammell said B.C. has a crisis with drugs, Surrey has a crisis with violence from the delivery of drugs, and there remains a staggering lack of places for people to recover from addiction.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said she was extremely pleased with the announcement, particularly the addition of a Crown counsel here that will deliver justice in a much swifter fashion.
She notes the city and province have to get out in front of the problem so the vacuum created by arrests isn’t quickly filled.
“The only thing that’s going to slow this down is education,” Hepner said, adding there are many addicts driving the market for dealers. “Therein lies a very vulnerable population. We need to attack it from every single angle.”