SURREY — Premier Christy Clark came to Surrey Friday to announce $23 million over three years for an expanded province-wide gun and gang strategy.
“What’s happening with gangs is not a Surrey problem. It’s a British Columbia problem,” said Clark. “When we undertake tough enforcement in one city, many of those gang members, just like cockroaches, find their way to other cities around the province.”
As tactics of criminals evolve, police tactics must too, she said.
“We need more resources to do it.”
Clark said the new funding will mean more integrated police teams, more prosecutors specifically dedicated to combating gang violence and more supports for officers on the ground.
The dollars will mean two additional 10-person Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit teams, according to Clark.
“More boots on the ground. More police officers on the ground. All of them very visible. It’s going to be permanent funding,” Clark remarked.
The funding will be available immediately, she noted, but it’s not known how quickly the new teams will be on the ground.
Clark said the investment will also mean a “new office of crime reduction and gang outreach for people to escape gang life.”
The Premier also said the province will “enhance” the ability Crime Stoppers.
“Every single tip that leads to something, from on the policing end, every single one will receive an award,” said Clark. “It’s an unlimited amount of budget available for rewards for people who turn gangsters in…. We want to add incentive.”
She added, “We will not rest until we put an end to this cycle of violence,” calling the suspects “low-life, low-level criminals.”
Clark urged gangsters to come forward.
“If you’re involved and you want to get out, call the RCMP, let us help you.”
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner welcomed the news, particularly the new prosecutors. Hepner noted the time between an arrest and prosecution is often “elongated.”
Surrey has seen more than 30 shootings on its streets so far this year. Police say several are believed to be connected to a new drug war different from last year’s dial-a-dope turf war.
Surrey-Newton NDP MLA Harry Bains told Black Press the government needs to do more, pointing to his party’s Surrey Accord, which calls for a community court in Surrey.
Harry Bains NDP MLA have been proposing Surrey Accord for last decade.
“We’ve suggested we need a specialized court for prolific offenders so we can deal with the underlying problems… Vancouver has that, we don’t have that,” he noted.
Bains said the NDP have also been calling for new officers in Surrey for years.
“Finally they are adding 100 new police officers. They should have been added in the last 10 years. We need to continue to add those resources.”
He added: “When those drug deals go unchecked then others are invited into that area. That’s when the shooting starts because they’re competing with each other.”
Bains also called for regulation of recovery homes.
“We have over 250 in Surrey,” he remarked. “Over 200 of them are unregulated and they’re unlicensed.”
He said Surrey also doesn’t have enough detox and treatment centres.
At a Surrey Board of Trade Luncheon Thursday (April 14), Surrey RCMP’s top cop, Asst. Commissioner Bill Fordy emphasized the need for education and prevention.
He said people should expect police to stop the violence, and are making progress. Last week they arrested five people and seized 13 guns.
“We will not arrest our way out of this issue. We will educate our way out of this issue,” Fordy said matter-of-factly.
Last Friday (April 8) Hepner announced she had given the RCMP 24-hour “real-time access” to all of the city’s 330 traffic cameras and has also ordered 75 new cameras to help police investigate the steady stream of street shootings here in Surrey, which number 31 so far this year.
Before police had access to the cameras, but not around the clock. They are typically used for traffic management.
On April 1, Surrey RCMP dropped the bombshell that, as of that time, there had been 28 shootings. Until then, the public knew of 16.
Police also displayed $4.5 million in heroin, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, fentanyl and fake oxycontin recently seized from a motorist in Newton on March 16. Police say it was the largest single drug seizure in Surrey’s history.
A community forum on youth and gangs is being held Monday (April 18) at the Bell Performing Arts Centre at 6250 144th St. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m.
-With files from Tom Zytaruk and Jeff Nagel