$7.5M, 5-year federal program to help Surrey, B.C., divert youth from gang life

SURREY, B.C. — The federal government has announced $7.5 million in funding to help the City of Surrey fight criminal gangs.

Bill Blair, minister of border security and organized crime reduction, and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan made the announcement Tuesday in Surrey.

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The funds will support the Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment Program, a collaborative project aimed at reaching youth at risk of joining gangs.

Public Safety Canada says in a news release that the program emerged from the findings of the Surrey mayor's task force on gang violence prevention.

The government says as many as 4,730 Surrey teenagers, between 13 and 17 years old, are expected to benefit from this project over five years.

Sajjan says gang violence was linked to half of Surrey's 12 homicides in 2017, while the number of murders climbed to 15 last year and included the targeted murders of two Surrey teens in June.

"The sad reality is that in places like Surrey too many young people continue to be lured into the gang world," Sajjan said during remarks at the announcement.

He pointed to estimates showing as many as 7,000 Canadian youth are involved in gangs and said the government funding is aimed at supporting families and helping teens make better choices.

"It takes an entire community to stop gang violence and we must come together to ensure that our young people are not lured at a young age," said Sajjan.

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