New steps to fight the guns and gangs problem in Surrey, B.C.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and the Surrey RCMP speak about gang violence in the city on June 15, 2015. RCMP handout

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner has announced a number of initiatives to tackle gun violence and gangs in her city.

LISTEN:  CKNW reporter Janet Brown talks to Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner about the new ideas

READ MORE: Surrey RCMP seek 5th suspect after major cocaine, fentanyl seizure results in 4 arrests

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She wants to see a Bar Watch program set up in Surrey.

“I want to make sure whatever venue criminals visit they will feel scrutinized and uncomfortable.”

Hepner is also looking to form a task force to assess the programs and services available to youth and build a “community safety centre” to engage young people.

“It will deliver education programs for school-aged children on a variety of topics, namely drug and gang awareness.”

Hepner is also calling on the Attorney General to review B.C.’s Crown charge approval process because she says right now it is too onerous.

LISTEN:  Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner on improving Surrey’s image to investors

Mayor Hepner seems to be suggesting all the publicity from shootings and “shots fired” incidents is affecting the investment climate in her city.

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In a speech to the Surrey Board of Trade, Hepner urged members not to just refer to the shootings as a Surrey problem, but as a region-wide issue.

“The more the focus is ‘this is Surrey problem,’ the greater Surrey believes the problem to be. So I want everyone in this room to start using the language about a ‘regional problem’, because it does affect an investment climate.”

RCMP Officer in Charge Dwayne McDonald says there have been 31 “shots fired” incidents in Surrey so far this year.

LISTEN:  CKNW reporter Janet Brown talks to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth about new funding

As promised, the NDP government has announced measures to get at the root of gun violence and gangs in Surrey.

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Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has announced his government is putting $500,000 into the “Wraparound” or “Wrap” program that identifies at-risk youth and helps to keep them out of gangs.

Farnworth says the money is coming from Civil Forfeiture grants.

“This is a first step. We’ve maintained all along that a multi-pronged approach is required in terms of dealing with gang issues not just here in Surrey but throughout the Lower Mainland.”

Mayor Hepner says almost 600 kids have taken the program since 2010.

“I think any announcement where we can add to the services and programs that make young people realize a gang lifestyle is not for them is an advantage to us and this entire region, so it’s a very important announcement.”

Right now there are 97 students in the program and 35 on the wait list.

The new funding will eliminate that waiting list.



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