‘New people in charge means you are able to look at things slightly differently’
BY RATTAN MALL
PUBLIC Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on Thursday told The VOICE that he’s looking at every initiative to tackle the gang issue that is plaguing Surrey and the rest of the Lower Mainland.
When I asked him if he was hopeful of finding a solution, he replied: “We take this issue seriously. I know the Mayor of Surrey [whom he has already spoken with twice] takes this issue very seriously. We want to make sure that police have the resources that they need; the communities have the resources that they need. … It’s not going to be solved overnight. We just want to make sure that we’ve got strategies in place for the medium and the long term to get this issue under control.”
Here is the rest of the interview:
VOICE: What would you do that would be so different from what has already been done by the previous government?
Farnworth: Well, first off, the fact that we’ve got a new government in place, a new minister brings the ability to bring a fresh set of eyes … after 16 years – it’s sort of been like the same people in charge. The fact that you’ve got new people in charge means you are able to look at things slightly differently and go ‘ok, let’s review what’s in place. Let’s find out exactly what is working. Are there areas that need to be changed? Are there additional ideas that we can look at bringing forward?’ And so that’s very much the approach I want to take.
I’ve been meeting with municipal police forces, I am meeting with senior RCMP officers today [Thursday], I’ve spoken with the Mayor of Surrey [Linda Hepner]. (I’m asking my staff) ‘ok, are there other initiatives that we can be doing that have not been tried yet?’ And so that’s very much my intention. I mean this is a critical issue in Surrey and the Lower Mainland and so I don’t think it’s enough to just say ‘oh well, this is what we have done before, so let’s just keep doing that.’ Let’s look at it and go ‘okay, are there additional things that we can do?’ and let’s get on it!
VOICE: Everyone I have interviewed in the past has called for the funding of more programs like you have in the Surrey School District to keep the kids out of gangs. Would you be funding more of these kinds of programs?
Farnworth: Those are some of the initiatives that I think we need to be looking at. There needs to be a multi-pronged approach. So clearly education is a key part of that, and not only in terms of prevention, but also exiting gangs. There are programs that are in place or should be in place and one of the questions is ‘are they working on a regional basis?’ Do municipalities all know exactly the different kinds of programs that are out there because that’s one of the questions that I get asked: ‘Does Abbotsford know what Surrey is doing? Does Surrey know what Vancouver is doing?’ And so we want to make sure that there is coordination and at the same time understanding that certain areas need funding to deal with particular issues in their community so that not only are they tailor-made for the community, but they are also being coordinated on a regional basis.
VOICE: Are there any other steps that you have considered … I know you have been in your ministry for just a short period of time?
Farnworth: Well, let’s put it this way: that’s why I am meeting with the RCMP today [Thursday]. Our platform, for example, laid out that we would have additional funding for the Wrap [Wraparound] Program, that’s one of the prevention programs that’s been in place in Surrey … that’s something that I want to follow through. There’s other initiatives that we are working on within my ministry that I hope I can take to Cabinet in the weeks and months ahead and address not only from an education, prevention aspect but also on the enforcement side, as well as looking at other changes that we need to be pushing at the federal government side, for example, that would help and assist in the fight against gangs and gang activity in the Lower Mainland, because at the end of the day, people should feel safe in their communities.