The Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment Program (SAFE), funded by Public Safety Canada and run by the City of Surrey, aims as its name suggests to keep youths out of gangs while helping them build positive life skills.
Brian Aasebo, community safety manager for the City of Surrey, recently highlighted some of the program’s landmarks for council concerning how 10 partner agencies deliver 11 programs through $7.5 million of federal funding.
“We know that youth who have been victimized are particularly vulnerable for gangs because they are seeking acceptance, belonging and safety,” Aasebo said. “When such youth start carrying weapons their risk for violence increases. We believe that providing the appropriate support for youth who experience victimization prevents negative behaviours and criminal affiliation.”
Aasebo said that from January 2019 to March 2020, SAFE has helped 1,515 Surrey residents, including 1,292 children. Its ultimate goal is to help 4,700 at-risk children by the end of its five-year funding cycle.
“SAFE is focusing on prevention and early intervention to give Surrey youth a brighter future,” he said. “Based on our data, we know that we are already reaching our intended audience and enhancing the connection between at-risk youth, and their families, schools and communities.”
Its programs include the High Risk Your Justice Program, Youth Hub for Co-operative Enterprise, Children and Youth at Risk Table, SAFE Community Clinical Counselling, Caregiver education Clinical Counselling, Female Youth Gang Intervention Program, Family and Youth Support Team (FYRST), Peer Leadership Program, South Asian Family Strengthening Team, and Intercultural Family Intervention.
Collectively they address gang involvement, homelessness, poverty and mental health.
The Children and Youth At-Risk Table, an initiative to support children before they show negative behaviour or get involved with crimes, by the end of March 2020 was involved in 47 meetings and took on 180 cases involving six to 19-year olds.
The average clients are 14-year-old boys, making for 64 per cent of all cases. Referrals come from all Surrey neighbourhoods with the most from Newton (63 cases), followed by Guildford (46), Whalley (29), Fleetwood (25), Cloverdale (17), South Surrey (16), and two from parts unknown.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum called it a “tremendous” program with “tremendous results. We can see that in the community.”