A proposal to introduce a program to Surrey that would ban known gangsters and associates from bars, restaurants, gyms and similar venues is earning praise.
The proposed Inadmissible Patron Program (IPP) was one of six recommendations included in a report by a task force on Surrey gang violence on Tuesday.
The IPP is similar to existing programs such as Bar Watch and Restaurant Watch, which have been lauded for their effectiveness in keeping gang elements away from popular public areas.
BarWatch Vancouver chair Curtis Robinson is himself a Surrey resident, and told Global News he’s encouraged by the recommendation.
But he said that if the program is implemented it must have a zero-tolerance policy to be successful.
“It’s pure psychology, and if you’re a gang member that makes lots of money and think that you’re the next coming of Tony Montana and you’re not allowed to go in anywhere, then it will have an effect on your lifestyle,” he said.
“In most cases, what you see is the people move on to other areas, or leaving areas where the police make your life miserable. It’s classic displacement.”
Robinson said he approached the Surrey RCMP about the program a decade ago, and still doesn’t understand why the detachment was critical of it then.
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President and CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade Anita Huberman said she’s surprised it’s taken so long to bring such a program south of the Fraser, but that it’s “better late than never.”
Huberman said it will now take some time to get the program up and running.
“The details are just being worked out, it’s not only about some program where you display a decal. There has to be training for the staff, for the business owner to make sure there are procedures and policies in place,” she said.
“We’re going to take those steps in very small ways, measured ways, to communicate to businesses that this program exists and make sure the training is there.”
Wednesday’s report also included a recommendation that the Surrey RCMP double the size of its gang squad.
It further recommended creating an exit and outreach program for people wanting to get out of gang life, and programs to keep younger kids between the ages of six and 13 from being recruited by gangsters in the first place.
Gurpreet Sahota, the journalist and anti-gang activist who organized last month’s “Wake Up” rally that drew more than 1,000 people, said those proposals don’t go far enough.
He said the RCMP needs more boots on the ground across the city, rather than just beefing up its gang unit.
“We need more officers right away, but they aren’t saying anything about it,” he said.
He added that programs to intervene with kids in school will also face significant challenges.
“There is a gap, a language barrier and cultural barrier in the school system. Everything is ‘one size fits all’ especially in the parent advisory councils, we need more diversity here,” he said.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner’s office said the city will be asking the federal government for $10 million to help fund new anti-gang initiatives.
The city has until the end of July to apply to the National Crime Prevention Strategy for the funding, which would be spent over five years.