May 19, 2015 3:03 pm
Updated: May 20, 2015 7:39 pm

Additional 100 RCMP officers to help fight gang violence in Surrey: federal government


WATCH:  The federal government has announced it will provide an additional 100 RCMP officers and $3.5 million in funding to help fight gang violence in Surrey. Linda Aylesworth reports. 

The federal government has announced it will be put an additional 100 RCMP officers on the streets of Surrey to help fight gang violence.

In an announcement made Tuesday morning, Hon. Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, the Member of Parliament for Delta-Richmond East, says the additional officers will be deployed as soon as possible, but would not provide a clear timeline.

Findlay says a contribution of $3.5 million over five years will also be made to the Surrey gang reduction program.

“We are making a difference where it matters, taking measures that will have a direct impact on the lives of Canadians,” says Findlay.

She says the federal government will also be supporting community-level programs for youth and families at risk.

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Since March, Surrey and Delta have seen a significant spike in violence with more than two dozen shootings.

Investigators say the violence is linked to two groups involved in low-level drug trafficking. Members of the groups are of South Asian and Somali descent.

Five people have been arrested so far in about 30 shootings since early March, half which police have tied to the dispute. About 40 cars have fled from crime scenes. Numerous witnesses have refused to co-operate.

“I think you’ll start to see results right away,” Findlay told reporters Tuesday at the announcement at the Surrey School District head office.

She couldn’t say when the new officers will be in place, noting that process is still being worked out. The commitment directly answers a formal request for more officers made by the city and B.C.’s attorney general.

WATCH: Former BC Solicitor General Kash Heed explains what today’s announcement about additional RCMP officers and funding actually means for Surrey

The bolstered force is expected to make an imminent difference, said Surrey’s Acting Mayor Barbara Steele. But she noted the city’s needs continue to grow along with its population, which includes the vulnerable children of refugees.

“Those are kids who are at risk to get into the wrong groups. So we’re always going to need it,” she said.

“The RCMP right now is actually doing a sterling job. … It’s just that the problem is huge.”

In their bid to end the violence, police took the unusual step of identifying victims — all men — in several of the shootings. That has led to 130 tips, 13 which have proven fruitful in recent weeks, Steele said.

Sometimes, younger brothers of people involved have been identified. The Surrey School District has launched a new program aimed at intercepting those believed to be at risk of enlisting in the gangs, said manager of the Safe Schools program, Rob Rai.

READ MORE: Christy Clark pledges money, gives assurances amid Surrey gang war

He’s hoping the new $3.5 million will wipe out entirely a waiting list of 20 students, between ages 11 and 19, who need direct intervention, as well as ensure no one else goes without support for the next five years.

“When the kids come into the program, hopefully there’s been some sort of shift in their thinking, saying, ‘Wow, that was scary out there, getting shot at is not nearly as fun or as exciting as I thought it would be,'” Rai said.

Each of the students is vetted by the RCMP before entering the program, including checking for any prior criminal record, parole conditions and weapons offences. They are segregated from mainstream classes and given lessons in a separate building by specialized staff, often one-on-one, he said.

When possible, teens who have dropped out of school are sought out and guided to finish their high school diplomas, he said.

“You can imagine those kids who say, ‘Hey, I got shot at, that’s a badge of honour. I’m going to continue doing that?’ They’re not ready for schooling and not necessarily ready for our programs either.”

-with files from Canadian Press



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