B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner presented a united front Thursday, after meeting to discuss a recent surge in gang violence in the city.
“Toe tag and jail are the only options for these guys if they don’t choose to accept the help we would offer if they want to end their gang life,” Hepner told reporters after the meeting.
“We are coming after you, we are not going to stop, you are going to be caught, you are going to be convicted, and you are going to go to jail,” Farnworth added.
LISTEN: Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner on recent surge of gang violence
Gun violence has been a simmering problem in the city for several years, but the issue came to a head last weekend with shots fired in three incidents in a single day.
The strong words came as Farnworth and Hepner sought to reassure the public in the face of a growing outcry over the violence – but both pointed to a code of silence among friends and family of gang members as a challenge.
“Family members are aware of the activity or have a strong suspicion. It’s incumbent on them to take information to the police,” Farnworth said.
“Because the reality is by not doing that they’re not protecting their loved ones if they think they are, they’re not protecting the next target, they’re in fact endangering people in the public, and they are in essence complicit in some of the violence that’s taking place.”
Hepner added that “so-called” shooting victims are not cooperating with police, making it more difficult to tackle the problem.
WATCH: Growing concern over gun violence in Surrey
The pair discussed a number of topics, including funding for education, prevention and gang exit programs.
The City of Surrey’s key ask from the province was support for an “integrated, coordinated, regional approach” to those programs, Hepner said, along with better funding for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU), which deals with regional gang crime.
Hepner also wants to see the WRAP program, which targets at-risk youth in an attempt to keep them out of gang life, expanded regionally.
Farnworth said the province is committed to ensuring both police and communities have the resources they need.
He said an announcement regarding WRAP funding would happen in the coming weeks, along with legislative changes that he wouldn’t reveal.
“We’re also not tipping off the criminal element as to what our intentions are,” Farnworth said.
A report on how illegal guns are crossing the border and ending up in criminals’ hands is also due by the end of September, Farnworth said.
In the meantime, Hepner said police are working “24 hours a day” to crack down on gangs, and that officers are being instructed to do whatever they can to ensure they’re off the street.
“I don’t care if they’re jaywalking, doesn’t matter if they’re loitering,” she said.
“If there’s anything we can do or get them on, we’re advancing that as much as we can. But we do need the public’s help.”
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