A dedicated help line for desperate Surrey parents worried their children might be involved in crime — set up in the wake of a spate of shootings in Surrey last year — is proving useful, police say.
The special help line is for parents who are worried their children might be involved in criminal activity. It 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.
“The Parent Line, in a lot of ways, is like a call centre,” Surrey RCMP Corporal Scotty Schumann explained. “When the call comes in, usually the officer has a good idea — after finding out what the root cause of the problem is — will have a good idea on who probably is the best person to assist. It could be us, it could be our school resource officers, it could be the school district. We work a lot with the school district and the school counsellors. The majority of calls that we’re getting are behavior-based or to do with actual parenting itself — ‘What do I do now, I’m at my wits’ end,’ or ‘My child is acting out and I can’t control them.’”
The launch of the help line was announced during a Surrey RCMP press conference that had been called after the city had experienced its 40th shooting in 2016, resulting in seven injuries and one death.
Bill Fordy, who was in charge of the Surrey RCMP at the time, said police had been investigating two ongoing conflicts in Surrey so far in 2016. In 2015, there were 55 local shootings, the vast number in Surrey and a couple in North Delta. Police said two groups, one of Somalian decent and the other South Asian, were responsible for most and police characterized the it as a conflict over dial-a-dope turf in Surrey and North Delta. So far this year police have recorded 40 shots-fired cases in Surrey, with the number escalating in recent days.
Schumann recalled when a mother called about her daughter suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues. The daughter was also under court orders, he said.
“When she (her mother) called in it was apparent to the officer right away that although there was several services helping this young lady, none of them were communicating what they were doing to the others because they weren’t aware that the other people were helping.”
So the officer got them all talking together, Schumann said.
“Mom was struggling with her daughter, who was essentially self-medicating, to deal with her mental health issues. When everybody got together at the table and came up with a plan, they addressed her next court appearance sort-of as a group, and as a result the court ordered a proper mental health assessment, which was done. The young lady ended up getting the proper medication, from the medical professional, and it resulted in her substance abuse being reduced, stabilizing her behaviour, and mom was having a much easier time dealing with her daughter. All started from one phone call.
”You could say — we’d be speculating — that a crime was prevented here, because if her behaviour is stabilized, she’s probably medicated, you know, we know that substance abuse, mental health problems and crime all go hand-in-hand, so if we’re addressing the mental health and the substance abuse, we could certainly guess it’s going to affect her behaviour as well,” Schumann said. “Mom is reporting that her behaviour has been stabilized. We haven’t heard from mom since, so hopefully things are working out for her.”
During the Parent Help Line’s launch, then public safety minister Mike Morris said in 2016 the provincial government would consider extending the help line to all of B.C.
“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,” the Liberal MLA said.
Of course, the NDP are now in power and Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains, who has personally suffered from violence as his nephew Arun Paul Singh Bains, 22, was shot dead in Newton in 2015, said the NDP is “looking at the shooting and drug violence in Surrey and trying to find some ways to put an end to this.”
“We need to have a whole comprehensive approach to this thing,” he said. “It is not an easy issue to deal with. There is not one simple answer to it.”