POLITICS

B.C. premier tells Surrey residents they aren't alone in gang war

04/28/2015 04:54 EDT | Updated 08/03/2015 11:59 EDT
SURREY, B.C. - While RCMP were investigating another shooting Tuesday, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark was just blocks away trying to reassure residents of Surrey that everything possible was being done to fight an escalating gang war.

Clark told reporters in Surrey City Hall the gang violence is an example of how the actions of a few can rob everyone of a sense of safety and security.

Tuesday's gunfire brings the number of shooting incidents since the beginning of March to almost two dozen in Surrey and nearby Delta. One man has been killed and others have been injured.

Police say many of the shootings are the result of a dispute between two groups of South Asian and Somalian descent over the low-level drug trade.

Clark said authorities are working hard so residents feel safe and secure.

"I want the people of Surrey to know that this city is not alone. The government of British Columbia stands with you in making sure we do everything we can to combat this threat."

While the problem won't be solved overnight, the premier said a comprehensive approach will address the root cause of these crimes.

She announced more funding for an overburdened anti-gang initiative called Wraparound.

The school-based program that tries to prevent children from going into gangs will get one-time funding of $270,000, and Clark encouraged the federal government to match the funds to wipe out the current wait-list of 40 children.

"Our goal is a violence-free B.C. and that means making sure that young people aren't going into gangs. There are two outcomes for kids who join gangs, there are only two: one is a jail cell and one is a grave."

NDP Justice critic Mike Farnworth criticized Clark's funding plan, saying she's allowing 20 at-risk Surrey youths to join gangs and face early deaths.

"What's particularly concerning, and in fact disturbing about the announcement is the premier admits that there are 40 kids on the wait-list for this program," said Farnworth at the legislature.

"Forty kids who are on a path to a gang lifestyle that tragically could end up, where they end up dead."

Surrey Mounties have said those involved in the dispute aren't talking. Police even took the unusual move of publicizing photos of those injured, asking for public help in solving the crimes.

On Tuesday, RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said the lure of the drug lifestyle is nothing new to young people looking for quick money and adventure.

"It's a misconception that the criminal lifestyle will afford any person longevity or a lifetime of success," he said. "Still it is attractive to our young people."

Opposition New Democrat member Harry Bains — whose nephew has been the sole death in the escalating dispute — said police, schools and communities must take back their public turf from people waging war in the streets.

"We have heard the term they are fighting for turf," Bains said Tuesday at the legislature. "My message is, through our law enforcement, we need to protect public turf."

Bains said the gang warfare must become a top priority because lives are at risk.

"I don't believe we are doing enough," he said.

Delta Police announced Tuesday that cameras are being installed in the North Delta area to discourage gun violence.

"We believe they will both deter criminal actions related to violence, but also aid us in the investigative process," said Acting Chief Lyle Beaudoin in a statement.

The province has approved 100 more police officers for Surrey, but approval from the federal government still hasn't been granted.

A statement from Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said his government has made significant investments in the RCMP to ensure there are enough frontline police officers in communities.