After doubling the funding for an anti-gang program in Surrey in August to $500,000 in an effort to eliminate the waitlist, the provincial government is now throwing another $500,000 at it.
Premier John Horgan made the announcement at Princess Margaret Secondary Thursday morning.
The new funding will go to the Wraparound (WRAP) program, which aims to keep at-risk youth ages 11 to 17 out of gang life.
“People deserve to feel safe and know that steady support is there to stop their kids from falling into a life of gang violence,” Horgan said. “As part of our commitment to tackle gangs and gun violence, today we’re delivering stable, secure funding for a program that keeps at-risk youth out of gangs and makes our communities safer.”
The Wrap program identifies youth who are at risk of joining gangs and connects them with outreach workers, teachers and police. A typical child in the program would already have multiple contacts with police and discipline at school.
The government says evaluation of the Wrap program — which involves counselling, mentoring, recreational activities, mental health support and more — has shown a 67 per cent decline in the negative police contacts of participants.
In August, the city says there were currently 97 students in the Wrap program, which was launched in 2009, with another 35 students awaiting entry.
Surrey RCMP says it has three full-time officers dedicated to the program.
Community Services Officer Shawn Gill described the program as “life changing.”
He said it’s an example of “Surrey’s collabortive effort to keep youth safe.”
In March, when Premier John Horgan was campaigning and promised funding, then Liberal MLA Amrik Virk said it’s “appropriate for the public to get a fulsome picture.”
The Wraparound program, he said, helped more than 500 students under his government’s watch. He accused Horgan of pulling “numbers out of the air, pre-emptive of grants that are imminent” from the Liberal government.
“Mimicry is the best form of flattery,” Virk said at the time.
Virk said his government has spent $64 million annually on a “full suite” of anti-gang enforcement in B.C., featuring the Gang Exit Program and End Gang Life Program, which he said has to date reached 20,000 students.
Virk expressed pride that Wraparound is funded through the proceeds of property seized from gangsters.
B.C. has provided $535,000 to the Surrey Wrap program since 2009, mostly through civil forfeiture grants.
The Surrey Wrap project has received the bulk of its support from Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy: $880,000 between 2008 and 2011, $500,000 from 2011 to 2013 and $3.5 million from 2015 to 2020.
Meantime, the provincial government says it is also taking action on gun and gang violence by working in partnership to implement the Surrey Accord, reviewing recommendations from the Illegal Firearms Task Force, seeking to “further support” police efforts to disrupt the illegal drug chain and pushing the federal government for increased penalties for dealers.