SURREY — The Surrey RCMP is arresting people and charging suspects with crimes related to Surrey’s street violence this year but has yet to lay a charge against someone for pulling a trigger.
Assistant Commissioner Bill Fordy confirmed at a press conference earlier this week that Surrey has had 40 shootings so far in 2016, resulting in seven injuries and one death.
Last week police arrested eight people in connection with dial-a-dope drug lines in multiple jurisdictions and 18 people over the past three weeks, and also seized heroin, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and firearms.
Fordy said the 18 suspects are collectively facing roughly 60 charges, some “for drug trafficking offences and related matters like extortion, dangerous driving, failing to stop for police and possession of a loaded firearm.”
But so far, nobody has been charged for being directly responsible for any of the shootings themselves.
“Some of the people that we’re advancing prosecutions are the persons that we believe are involved in the shootings,” Fordy said. “We have not advanced a prosecution for a shooting they’ve committed because our experience with the victims has not been one where they’ve been completely cooperative. So, during the course of our investigations we’re advancing prosecutions for related crimes.”
Fordy said police are investigating two ongoing conflicts in Surrey this year. Last year, there was 55 local shootings — the vast number in Surrey, and a couple in North Delta. Police said two groups — one of Somalian decent, the other, South Asian — were responsible for most of those and characterized it as a fight over dial-a-dope turf in North Delta and Surrey.
“Together with our partners we disrupted the violence related to the low-level drug trafficking last year and I’m telling you that we will do that again this year,” Fordy said. “Some of the people that were involved in last year’s conflict have been arrested this year but the people that were involved in last year’s conflict are not involved in this year’s conflict. What we have seen is a new group come in to fill the void.”
The assistant commissioner noted that “drug trafficking is a crime with tentacles that reach across multiple jurisdictions,” with drug dealers living in one city and selling in another.
Similar violence is playing out in Toronto, Calgary, Halifax, Ottawa and Winnipeg, Fordy noted. “Having said that we’re not interested in simply moving the issue or the problem to another city, to another province or another policing jurisdiction,” he said. “Our goal is to advance prosecutions against those that are engaged in this criminal lifestyle.
“I’d love to tell you every action we are taking (to stop the violence),” Fordy said. But if he did, he added, he’d be tipping off the criminals.
Meantime, the Surrey RCMP recently set up a special help line for parents who are worried their children might be involved in criminal activity.
The Surrey RCMP Parent Helpline at 604-599-7800 puts concerned parents in touch with youth officers and counsellors who will furnish them with resources, police information and intervention.
Messages can be left in English, French or Punjabi and callers leaving their name, phone number and concern can expect to receive a call within 24 hours, Monday to Friday.
“To date we have been in contact with 17 separate families,” Fordy noted. “They reached out to us on our help line.”
Public Safety Minister Mike Morris said the provincial government might extend the help line to all of B.C. He also said the government is developing a “gang-exit pilot project” to help gangsters who want to leave gang life.
“There is a way out,” he said.
“There’s a lot of parents out there who are living in fear because their sons are involved in these types of activities and they don’t know how to get them out.”