THE Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) Society hosted its first walk for a drug- and gang-free Surrey from Surrey City Hall to Holland Park on May 18. PICS says it led this community initiative by following its vision to build a healthy and just society. The objective was to create awareness about the rise of gang violence and drug abuse in Surrey and the importance of providing programs, services and support systems to address this problem.
Around 200 participants joined in to walk the streets of Surrey to support the cause. Some of the attendees were RCMP, Crime Stoppers, Surrey Fire Fighters, Surrey Pre-Trial Services Center and Kids Play Foundation. The walk was also supported by local MLAs Bruce Ralston, Harry Bains, Rachna Singh, Garry Begg and Jinny Sims; local MPs Sukh Dhaliwal and Ken Hardie; Surrey Councillors Mandip Nagra, Brenda Locke, Linda Annis and Jack Hundial.
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, was the keynote speaker for the event. Commenting on the rise of drug and gang violence, Farnworth said the problem has to be tackled by many angles – “focus on prevention, education and starting early.” He said that it is important to show kids the dead-end part of the gang lifestyles and to ensure there is help for parents who want to get their kids off the path of gang violence. He also emphasized the need of more programs like the “Surrey Wraparound Program” throughout BC.
Inspector Mike Hall from Surrey RCMP mentioned that they share the concern and agree that more needs to be done, not just by the police but the community as a whole. Hall said that enforcement, prevention and intervention is the top priority of Surrey RCMP and that “the long term strategy is to promote positive choices for youth and provide guidance for parents through a number of intervention and education programs in collaboration with the schools and community partners.”
In his speech, PICS C.E.O., Satbir Singh Cheema, said “enough is enough” in frustration and identified a few ways to prevent the gang dominance in Surrey. He mentioned that the City of Surrey needs 300 more police officers to be able to better serve the community, surveillance cameras are needed in schools and police cruisers need to be patrolling the schools during lunch hours and school closing times to prevent gang members from approaching young children. He also mentioned that one of the key prevention methods is for parents to spend more time with their children and to pick up on signs early on.
The walk also featured personal stories of ex-gang members and substance-dependent individuals. Twelve exhibitors showcased their programs and resources focusing on counselling, crisis intervention, housing services, family strengthening programs for at risk youth, youth employment services and much more.
Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society thanked Khalsa Credit Union for donating for the cause and the City of Surrey for giving permission to organize the walk.