SURREY — Surrey’s top cop says he doesn’t think the city is being plagued by a “gang war,” despite nearly 50 shootings here this year so far.
“I wouldn’t characterize this as a gang war,” Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bill Fordy told reporters at a press conference on Monday (Aug. 8), with Mayor Linda Hepner at his side.
“These people are involved in what I would call low-level drug trafficking and the shooting conflict is related to low-level drug trafficking. There are no what we would typically refer to as gangs like Hells Angels, or Red Scorpions, United Nations. We are not characterizing this as a gang war, these are people at the low end.”
Rather, Fordy said, it’s a “dispute over turf.”
Hepner, meantime, admitted she’s frustrated with the courts and sentencing. “My frustration is that I believe any time that you fire a gun in an urban setting and you may mean to harm others that the severity of the punishment should be significant and from the perspective that I have seen, up to now, I don’t see that happening,” Hepner told reporters.
(Photos supplied by Surrey RCMP.)
“So that’s why I say I hope, when these alleged offenders, if they are found guilty, that the court recognizes that there should be a severe punishment for denigrating a city and creating a kind of chaos that this creates in our community.”
Asked what that punishment would be, “Jail” was her reply.
“I couldn’t speak to that,” Hepner said. “I just don’t want to see them on the streets.”
The Surrey RCMP called the press conference to showcase six arrests on Aug. 5 that, Fordy said police believe, prevented more violence on Surrey’s streets.
“We were able to intervene and prevent a drive-by shooting,” he said.
Himmat Singh Virk, 18, of Surrey, and Manpreet Michael Johal, 24, of Delta, have both been charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit the indictable offence of reckless discharge of a firearm.
Surrey residents Randeep Singh Johal, 18, and Baltej Singh Gill, 18, have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit the indictable offence of reckless discharge of a firearm. A fifth man was arrested but police have not released his name because charges have not yet been approved.
Gill was previously arrested and charged on four firearm-related offences, Fordy said, as was a boy whose age police have not released. “He is co-accused on these matters.” His name cannot be published as his identity is shielded by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Fordy said that since March the Surrey RCMP has made 30 arrests for “firearms, drug trafficking and the like” and seized 15 guns along with body armour and thousands of rounds of ammunition related to the spate of shootings.
He added he’s confident more arrests and charges will be announced in coming months and thanked Surrey residents “for their ongoing trust and support.”
Hepner echoed his optimism.
“It is with a heavy heart that I say we’re here again but it is a joyful heart that I’m saying we’ve made some significant progress,” she told reporters.
“What is happening now on our streets is so unacceptable that when these folk get before the courts, I hope the courts recognize the severity of a crime utilizing a gun on city streets and come down with a full, with some very significant acknowledgment in the punishment phase of this, should all of those who are currently before the courts be found to be guilty.
“Today is a happy day, that we’ve got more, we’re going to have more than this, and we’re making significant progress on this file and I think the residents of Surrey should know that and be comforted by the fact that so many resources have been going into this,” Hepner said.
Amrik Virk, the Liberal MLA for Surrey-Tynehead and minister of technology, innovation and citizens services, echoed Hepner.
“I expect the full weight of the law to come on these individuals,” the former Surrey RCMP officer said.
Virk added he also respects the independence of the judiciary, which has a “wide latitude” in sentencing.
“I expect the judges will apply the appropriate law,” he said.