Business Community Applauds Anti-Gang Efforts
The organization that represents 2,400 businesses in Surrey says it is pleased with the progress being made to combat gang activity in the city. According to Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, the ability to reduce this kind of serious crime plays a crucial role in helping businesses succeed.
“If a community has a lot of crime, then business is going to move out of the city,” she said. “And if they don’t see any opportunities for improvement by the different stakeholders then business is going to lose faith.”
There’s a lot going on in Surrey on the anti-gang front. The province continues to roll out its $23 million anti–gang assault. And Surrey recently launched its own anti-gang plan.
The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – British Columbia, the province’s anti-gang agency, is targeting “at-risk” youth and their families through video clips, posters and radio spots. Their End Gang Life school visits have reached over 20,000 students in B.C. so far, the Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General told Surrey604.com. That’s 60 presentations and counting.
The City of Surrey City Centre Response Plan features 12 Surrey RCMP officers and 4 bylaw officers specifically targeting people who prey on vulnerable residents. The idea is to also to increase public safety and protection of property not just for residents, but businesses as well. Another big part of the strategy is to connect people who need assistance with the groups that can help them get the treatment they require.
At the same time, the City of Surrey Project IRIS (Integrated Resources for Investigations and Safety) Camera Registry is a partnership between the City of Surrey, Surrey RCMP, and businesses. Police want want to be able to move swiftly on any and all investigations, including rapidly identifying camera owners in the area of a complaint investigation. Registration is voluntary, but businesses have been quick to support the registry. The way it works is RCMP contact registered camera owners to request access to recorded video footage they seek.
“It’s not just one ingredient,” Huberman said. “It’s the combination of ingredients that make that overall recipe of success for public safety.”
Meanwhile, the Surrey Wrap Around Safe Schools Program is the Surrey School District, Surrey RCMP and City of Surrey team effort to keep kids away from gang life. Sports and other rec activities are used as a tool to help put positive role models and opportunities for success in front of the sorts of youth that could potentially fall prey to the lure of the dark side.
“Business is concerned about the amount of crime,” Huberman added. “There’s a direct correlation in terms of pride in terms of the ability to do business within a certain area.”
In the lead-up to these programs the Surrey Board of Trade met face-to-face with different City managers as well as the RCMP, to describe what businesses hope Surrey will become in the future. The board relayed feedback from its business public safety team and board of directors, as well as its own policy prescriptions on cyber crime and prolific offender issues. The board also participated in roundtables around the city’s public safety strategy prior to it being released last year, so the public could have their say.
The verdict to date? So far so good.
“In many cases City Halls are not open to that kind of feedback,” she said. “I know there will always be challenges, but the fact that there’s pathways to identify solutions, and that we have a collaborative relationship to try to communicate the business community’s concerns, is positive.”
What the future will hold as Surrey barrels headlong towards becoming the largest city in the province is unclear, but the business community sees a true commitment to public safety from multiple levels of government.
“We’ve seen some significant investments even by the province on their Guns and Gangs strategy, and we’ve seen the Surrey RCMP make some significant arrests around the whole gang situation that has been omnipresent within the media over the past couple years,” she said, adding there’s still more work to be done. “We are a city that no one thought its population would grow so quickly. We have a land base where we’re still able to bring business into the city and grow business. And that comes with some growing pains, like any large urban centre within Canada. That means there needs to be more collaboration between the different levels of government around public safety around crime reduction.”
(Featured image from CFSEU-BC “Bury You” End Gang Life video).