A program that will benefit “up to 4,730 high-school-aged young people” in Surrey by promoting a gang-free lifestyle was announced by the federal government today.
The joint announcement – which was made by federal minister of border security and organized crime reduction Bill Blair, along with defence minister Harjit Sajjan – will see a federal investment of $7.5 million put towards the Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment (SAFE) Program.
The program is meant to provide at-risk youth with alternatives to joining gangs, help them develop social skills, and restore and build positive relationships with their parents and the community. It was developed out of the findings of the Mayor’s Task Force on Gang Violence Prevention, which reported its findings in July 2018.
“The funding announced today will go to tackle a key element in reducing gangs,” said Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. “Disaffected and at-risk youth have been vulnerable to falling into the trap of the gang lifestyle.”
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“We created the SAFE Program to empower our youth, families and their neighbourhoods so we can all look forward to a positive future free from the harmful impact of gangs.”
The program is funded under the National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) and will include the creation of a Children and Youth at Risk Table (CHART) that brings together partners on a weekly basis to ensure interventions are coordinated for maximum impact.
It’s also meant to provide support to young women exiting unhealthy, sexually exploitive relationships, and provide support to parents to strengthen relationships and positive cultural attachment for at-risk young people who may be lured into joining a gang.
The SAFE Program was developed “specifically for Surrey in response to the urgent need for a coordinated approach to address gang violence, and to disrupt the pathways young people take toward joining gangs and the gang lifestyle,” said Blair. “This will ultimately contribute to a safer community in Surrey.”
In 2016-17, the city of Surrey’s youth-crime increased 34%, with spikes in offenders between the ages of 15 and 17 years old.