April 15, 2016 - 2:30 PM
SURREY, B.C. - British Columbia is spending another $23 million to fight escalating gang violence in Metro Vancouver aimed at increasing public safety.
Premier Christy Clark was flanked by the public safety minister, senior police officers from around the region and the mayor of Surrey on Friday as she announced the province's latest guns and gangs strategy.
While Surrey has had more than 30 shootings so far this year, Clark said initiatives such as increasing the number of officers and prosecutors dedicated to following cases through the court system are aimed at fighting gangs in every part of B.C.
"We know that when we take tough enforcement in one city many of those gang members, just like cockroaches, find their way to other cities around the province," she said.
"The gang life leads nowhere except to jail or a coffin."
The anti-gang Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, which has an annual budget of about $60 million, will get two more 10-person teams, along with a new Office of Crime Reduction and Gang Outreach to help people escape gang life, Clark said.
As part of the funding, to be doled out over three years, the government has added $450,000 to the Crime Stoppers budget to encourage people in every community to report crimes and suspicious activity involving gangs.
RCMP in Surrey have tried to assure residents that they are working hard to investigate the latest spate of gun violence. In March, police seized over $4.5 million in drugs, the largest haul in the city's history.
Clark said the province is reviewing legislation on access to firearms and electronic monitoring for people awaiting court dates and aims to work with the federal government to change laws related to guns.
"We're working with our MPs here in Surrey who I know are very concerned about what's going on and making sure that folks in Ottawa understand how serious this problem is in British Columbia."
The province will create a task force to study and strengthen provincial and federal programs related to illegal firearms.
An amnesty program will also allow people to surrender unauthorized firearms and ammunition without fear of legal repercussions. In 2013, a similar program brought in 1,801 firearms and more than 30,000 rounds of ammunition for destruction.
RCMP deputy commissioner Craig Callens said the new funding will help extra officers share more information and intelligence and target offenders in more areas of the province.
A year ago, the B.C. government announced $270,000 for Wraparound, a program involving the Surrey School District, the city and three full-time RCMP officers trying to prevent children from joining gangs.
The federal government added $3.5 million over five years, said district spokesman Doug Strachan. He said the wait list of 40 students a year ago has been cut to 20 students in the growing city.
In May 2015, the federal government approved 100 new RCMP officers for the Surrey detachment amid an ongoing turf war between two groups of low-level drug traffickers.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016