B.C. needs provincewide approach to gang prevention:
Not enough is being
done to prevent children and youth in B.C. from getting involved in gangs,
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said.
While there have been anti-gang success stories like the Surrey Wrap Program for at-risk students, there needs to be a comprehensive, long-term, provincewide approach to gang prevention for kids, Watts said.
“I don’t think we are doing enough at the front-end,” she said. “We have to have plans in place and it has to be a coordinated effort right across the province — especially when you are talking about vulnerable youth. They are in every single community.”
Funding for existing programs is generally through short-term grants, which makes long-term planning difficult.
“This is the challenge that we have when we are trying to coordinate and do this type of work,” she said. “When you are trying to change a child’s life ... it is not short-term. It is long-term. We have got to be thinking long-term.”
Watts is giving the opening address at a Surrey anti-gang forum for parents and students Saturday, organized by Kwantlen University in the memory of Chris Mohan, an innocent victim of a 2007 gangland shooting.
Mohan’s mother Eileen and Supt. Tom McCluskie, head of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit’s Gang Task Force, are among the featured speakers.
The forum starts at 9 a.m. at Queen Elizabeth secondary, 9457 King George Blvd.
Watts said in an interview that refugee children are particularly susceptible to the lure of gang life.
“We want to have measures in place for our refugee community and their kids,” Watts said. “Given where they come from and what they have experienced in terms of war-torn countries and the violence that they have seen, they are targets for recruitment.”
There are vulnerable youth in cities and towns across the province, she noted, and gang violence has affected many communities.
“There has to be additional coordination between the communities and cities and the different levels of government in terms of the longevity of some of these programs,” she said.
“This was identified through the B.C. mayors’ caucus in terms of having that continuity when those services are being provided. We can share best practices, but you have to have a coordinated response to it.”
Watts said there should be no stigma attached to talking publicly about gang violence and the communities affected by it.
“I think we have to get past that because these are kids in our communities that need to be given the tools to succeed,” Watts said.
“We see it as cities. We are on the front line so we see this. We see it all play out. We have to have these conversations.”
28 May 2012