PREMIER Christy Clark on Tuesday met with Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner at Surrey City Hall and then announced a one-time contribution of $270,000 to the Surrey Wraparound Program (Wrap), which aims to reduce gang-related activity among youth.
Wrap currently serves 60 youth and the new contribution will support an additional 15 to 20 individuals. The funding will reduce the current waitlist by half and improve supports to students and families already in the program.
It was a relief that nobody tried to minimize their failure to effectively deal with gang violence in Surrey by shamelessly placing the blame on the South Asian community that is outraged at this blame game.
Clark’s announcement is being seen as just another “band-aid” measure as opposed to formulating a comprehensive strategy to deal with gang violence as pointed out by former solicitor general Kash Heed.
Surrey RCMP Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy said: “This is a significant investment in the future of our community. With one third of our population under the age of 19, youth are a top priority for the Surrey RCMP. It is crucial that we work together to deliver the support and attention at-risk youth need to help them stay out of gangs and the criminal lifestyle. We repeatedly see enormous benefits from fostering positive interactions with police and their community.”
Hepner said: “I am committed to ensuring the youth in our community have the programs and resources to help them make the right choices in life. The funding provided today by the Province means more at-risk youth will have timely access to the acclaimed Wrap Program where they will receive the support and guidance they need.”
Speaking with city officials, school district representatives, community leaders, law enforcement, and provincial MLAs, Clark confirmed her commitment to work closely with all partners, including the federal government.
Clark said: “Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own neighbourhoods and the people of Surrey need to know the Government of British Columbia stands with you. We’re ready to work with you, and we won’t stop until we put an end to gang violence.”
The province said that about $60 million a year is provided to the RCMP in B.C. for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC) and anti-gang initiatives. While more work is needed, the province said that this announcement “builds on a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach – tough on crime, vigilant against its root causes – to combating gang violence in Surrey, which has seen a decline in violent crime over the past 10 years.”
The many efforts include:
* Approving and forwarding to the federal government Surrey’s request for 130 more police officers.
* Over $318,000 in grants this year alone directed to local crime prevention and anti-violence programs in Surrey through the provincial government’s Civil Forfeiture Office.
* Establishing the Surrey Criminal Justice Task Force with the City of Surrey to develop an integrated network of social, health and justice service providers.
Surrey’s Wraparound program
The Surrey school district, in partnership with the RCMP and the City of Surrey, launched the program in 2009 to help youth at risk of gang involvement. The program’s overall goal is to help at-risk participants aged 11 to 17 build positive lifestyles and self-worth through a stronger connection to their school, family, community and peers. At-risk youth are referred from a variety of sources, including Surrey schools, police officers, youth probation and other community agencies.
Since it began, Wrap has seen 500 referrals, and the program currently serves 60 youth in the district. The new funding contribution will support 15 to 20 more participants, which means the current waitlist will be reduced by half. The funding will also improve supports to students and families already in the program.
A team including school district staff, the RCMP and community partners works together with at-risk youth and their families to develop personalized plans to help them succeed in school, to foster positive and trusting relationships with police and authority figures, to build self-worth through work experience and mentoring, and to encourage their strengths and interests through recreational, athletic and artistic opportunities.
Wrap has dramatically reduced gang activity in Surrey and the results show a direct cost benefit to the police and the community. An independent evaluation showed that the average participant saw their negative police contacts decrease by 66% while the control group, the waitlist, saw their negative police contacts increase by 20%.