In an effort to deal with the increase in gang activity in the province, Premier Christy Clark announced a $23 million boost to B.C.’s guns and gangs strategy today.
“What’s happening with gangs is not a Surrey problem, it’s a British Columbia problem,” Clark said Friday morning.
“We know when we undertake tough enforcement in one city, many of those gang members, just like cockroaches, find their way to other cities around the province. We need to be integrated in our approach to fighting gangs.”
Clark said the $23 million will be distributed over three years and will mean more police teams and prosecutors dedicated to combating gang violence. The funding will support public safety in areas like Surrey, Williams Lake and other communities that have seen a recent spike in violent, public gang activity.
On April 6, Surrey recorded its 32nd shooting of the year and days earlier Surrey RCMP revealed the majority of shootings in 2016 are being caused by new players in a drug war.
The uptick in gang violence will be tackled with a three-pillar approach: supporting enforcement and prosecution; furthering community safety and public engagement and expanding laws and sanctions that target illegal guns and gang violence, profits and property.
WATCH: Premier Christy Clark announces $23 million for expanded guns and gang strategy.
The first pillar will include several key additions. Two 10-person teams will be added to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC). More money will be given to the Provincial Tactical Enforcement Priority, which is an integrated team of municipal, provincial and federal tech systems. And lastly, dedicated Crown counsel will be put on priority files.
“The frequency and public nature of recent gang shootings is unacceptable and demands this additional, strategic deployment of resources. People deserve to feel safe no matter where they live in B.C.,” Clark said.
The second pillar, which focuses on community safety and public engagement, will establish a new office for crime reduction and gang outreach. In particular, the province is investing $450,000 to support Crime Stoppers’ Cash for Tips phone line, which allows people to report illegal firearms.
“We’ve seen strong collaboration from CFSEU relative to gangs,” Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said.
“Today’s announcement will add to the on-the-ground work that CFSEU does and I really like that they’re adding prosecutors. So often we see, between the arrest and [the] prosecution [is] elongated and this will shorten the process.”
The third pillar will focus on legislative solutions like potential outreach programs and changes to provincial and federal law as it relates to buying.
While the money is available immediately, BC RCMP Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens could not give a specific timeline for rolling out the extra personnel or where the new units will be located.
“The CFSEU is an integrated unit and we will identify RCMP officers and also our partners to assist them in ramping up the operation.”
In addition to the infusion of money and new strategy, Clark said the province will follow up with the federal government on its recent budget commitment to work with other levels of government to determine how it can help the local communities and police reduce gun and gang violence.