Funding for six programs that aim to keep kids out of gangs

Mike Farnworth

TO assist communities facing increased gun and gang violence throughout British Columbia, six programs aimed at enhancing efforts to prevent, disrupt and combat this violence will receive sustained funding through the Gun and Gang Violence Action Fund from Public Safety Canada.

“Prevention and intervention at the community level are important parts of combating the gun and gang violence that we’ve seen across our province,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said on Tuesday. “Working with our federal, municipal and community partners, we can strike at the root of the problem in our neighbourhoods to ensure our youth are resilient to the lure of gangs and gang violence, helping them make positive life choices while laying the groundwork for a safer, more positive future for all citizens in B.C.”

This funding will build upon one of government’s first announcements, providing the Surrey Wrap program with ongoing, annual funding of $500,000 to deliver anti-gang programming to youth in Surrey. The number of youth and families served by Surrey Wrap, at last count, had grown from 131 to 168, for a capacity increase of 28%.

B.C.’s first allocation of $5.3 million in funding over two years, from the Gun and Gang Violence Action Fund, will support community-specific initiatives aimed at preventing and intervening in local gang activity in specific areas struggling with gun and gang crime.

This reliable funding will ensure B.C.’s programs are able to provide sustainable program delivery that will emphasize community engagement, targeted training and the development of gun and gang violence prevention tools for Indigenous communities.

Six gang-related prevention and intervention programs, based in Abbotsford, the Cariboo-Chilcotin region and the Capital Regional District, will receive the following funding:

* $977,966 to the Abbotsford Community Services Society’s Abbotsford In It Together: Supporting Youth Involved in Gang Activity program.

* $225,000 to the Abbotsford Community Services Society’s Enhancing Gang Prevention and Intervention Programming with South Asian Youth.

* $207,795 to the Cariboo-Chilcotin Child Development Centre Association’s Future Forward program.

* $173,361 to the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre Society’s Youth and Family Navigator program.

* $450,00 to the Pacific Centre Family Services Association’s Crime Reduction and Exploitation Diversion program.

* $580,000 to the BC School Superintendents Association’s Support for High Risk, Vulnerable Youth in BC Communities program.

This upfront investment in community-based prevention and intervention programs will enable sustained operations over the next several years.

To better understand just how the funding is helping, and to evaluate best practices related to gang prevention and intervention, recipients will be responsible for reporting performance metrics to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

The next year of community-based funding will focus on incorporating a municipal grant-funding framework between the Province and local governments to sustain sufficient response to this public safety challenge.

A balance of prevention, intervention and enforcement strategies is important for success in any community. The Province will continue to work with federal and municipal partners to pull out all the stops to identify bold, new actions that can support police, schools and citizens in curbing gun and gang violence and saving young lives.

Alison Gutrath, community co-ordinator, Abbotsford Community Services – In It Together Program, said: “We are grateful to receive this funding to address such a critical need in our community. This will allow us to work with the youth at highest risk of and those involved in gang activity.”

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said: “On behalf of the City of Abbotsford, I would like to thank the Province of British Columbia for supporting Abbotsford Community Services’ In It Together Program. By focusing on prevention at a young age with youth and their families, we can help to stop young people from being lured into gang lifestyles. In It Together has had enormous success in our community and is an important part of how we can continue to address gang activity at a community level.”

Abbotsford Police Department Chief Constable Mike Serr said: “Enforcement strategies alone will not end gang violence. We must continue to invest in prevention, intervention and education programs that support our community. I am pleased with today’s funding announcement, as it is critically needed to support at-risk youth and their families in Abbotsford. These programs compliment the work being done by the Abbotsford Police Department to suppress gang violence and keep our city safe.”