The scene of a shooting in Surrey this summer. (Black Press file photo)

Province gives $500K to anti-gang program in Surrey

NDP follows through on promised funding to the Surrey Wraparound program that targets at-risk youth

The new NDP government has followed through on its promise to provide $500,000 for Surrey’s Wraparound anti-gang program.

The funding was part of the party’s commitment along the campaign trail in an effort to reduce gang violence.

There are currently 97 students in the Wrap program, which was launched in 2009, with another 35 students awaiting entry.

It’s said the new funding will eliminate the backlog of the youth program, which involves police working with the school district to identify and intervene with children ages 11 to 17 at risk of joining gangs.

“Wrap is a successful program that identifies at-risk youth to help keep them out of gangs in the first place. It should have stable and secure funding, not waitlists,” Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said in a release.

“People want to feel safe where they live and know their child won’t be lost to the dead-end path of gang life,” he added. “It’s time to target gang violence in our neighbourhoods head-on. Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction.”

The government says evaluation of the Wrap program — which involves counselling, mentoring, recreational activities, mental health support and more — has shown a 67 per cent decline in the negative police contacts of participants.

In March, when Premier John Horgan was campaigning and promised this funding, then Liberal MLA Amrik Virk said it’s “appropriate for the public to get a fulsome picture.”

The Wraparound program, he said, helped more than 500 students under his government’s watch. He accused Horgan of pulling “numbers out of the air, pre-emptive of grants that are imminent” from the Liberal government.

“Mimicry is the best form of flattery,” Virk said at the time.

Virk said his government has spent $64 million annually on a “full suite” of anti-gang enforcement in B.C., featuring the Gang Exit Program and End Gang Life Program, which he said has to date reached 20,000 students.

Virk expressed pride that Wraparound is funded through the proceeds of property seized from gangsters.

B.C. has provided $535,000 to the Surrey Wrap program since 2009, mostly through civil forfeiture grants.

The Surrey Wrap project has received the bulk of its support from Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy: $880,000 between 2008 and 2011, $500,000 from 2011 to 2013 and $3.5 million from 2015 to 2020.

Meantime, the provincial government says it is also taking action on gun and gang violence by working in partnership to implement the Surrey Accord, reviewing recommendations from the Illegal Firearms Task Force, seeking to “further support” police efforts to disrupt the illegal drug chain and pushing the federal government for increased penalties for dealers.

The NDP government also vows to push the federal government to bolster B.C.’s federal RCMP complement, and pursue the province’s share of the $100 million in funding the federal government announced as part of its plan to help with guns and gangs.

amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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