More police teams and prosecutors dedicated to combating gang violence will be on the ground and new curbs on gang crime and illegal guns will soon be in place. These are among a dozen new and expanded initiatives that are part of a more than $23-million boost to B.C.’s Guns and Gangs Strategy.
The funding will bolster public safety in Surrey, Williams Lake and other communities that have seen recent spikes in violent, public gang activity, through a three-pillar approach focused on:
- Supporting effective enforcement and prosecution.
- Furthering community safety and public engagement.
- Expanding laws and sanctions targeting illegal guns and gang violence, profits and property.
“The frequency and public nature of recent gang shootings is unacceptable and demands this additional, strategic deployment of resources. People deserve to feel safe no matter where they live in B.C.,” Premier Christy Clark said. “This investment will build on the gains made under our Guns and Gangs Strategy – through integrated police teams, made-in-B.C. anti-gang laws, civil forfeiture actions and police- and community-led programs that engage and educate at-risk youth.”
The first pillar will support the investigation, apprehension and prosecution of gangsters and organized criminals by:
- Adding two 10-person teams to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC) – B.C.’s integrated anti-gang organization – to support police in communities around the province, dealing head-on with violent criminals to suppress and disrupt their activities.
- Enhanced funding for the Provincial Tactical Enforcement Priority (PTEP) – a comprehensive approach that has integrated municipal, provincial and federal intelligence systems to maximize police efforts to pinpoint and disrupt gang and criminal networks.
- Putting dedicated Crown counsel on priority PTEP files in Surrey that involve offenders with lower-level ties to guns and gangs. This will enhance continuity as these cases proceed to trial and build prosecutors’ familiarity with, and expertise in handling, these files.
- Expanding the capacity for electronic monitoring of high-risk offenders and ensuring the courts – which have sole discretion over assigning electronic monitoring as a condition of a recognizance or sentence – are fully aware of the options at their disposal.
The second pillar will further community safety and public engagement by:
- Establishing a new Office of Crime Reduction and Gang Outreach. This office will work with CFSEU-BC in support of its End Gang Life program, as well as local governments and agencies, to provide overarching co-ordination of provincial anti-gang outreach programs.
- Creating an Illegal Firearms Task Force to study and strengthen provincial and federal programs related to illegal firearms.
- In consultation with the Attorney General, providing people with a safe, secure way to permanently surrender unwanted and unauthorized firearms and ammunition without fear of legal repercussions, through a firearms amnesty program, B.C.’s first since 2013.
- Investing $450,000 to support Crime Stoppers’ proven Cash for Tips on Illegal Firearms line, to ensure awards are paid to individuals when a tip results in a conviction and to promote awareness of the Gang Tip line.
The third pillar will focus on exploring a range of legislative solutions, informed by the Office of Crime Reduction and Gang Outreach and the Firearms Task Force and through consultation with law enforcement, local government and agencies, to:
- Support potential outreach programs to disrupt and prevent gang violence.
- Explore potential changes to provincial and federal laws related to the purchase, movement and storage of firearms.
- Examine ways to further restrict gangsters’ and drug traffickers’ access to vehicles and other tools of their trade.
As well, the Province will follow up with the federal government on its recent budget commitment to work with other levels of government to determine how it can best support communities and police in limiting access to weapons and reducing gun and gang violence. The Province will seek direct access to long-term, sustainable federal funding, plus flexibility to deploy it in support of provincial and municipal policing, prevention and outreach.
“Enhancing public safety in the face of recent shootings means pulling out all the stops. We are strengthening our strategies and our front-line capacity to get guns off the street, putting gangsters behind bars and increasing our efforts to ensure young people understand gang life is a dead end,” Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Morris said. “Our multi-faceted approach is designed to effectively and quickly counter both the gunplay and its roots.”
“We appreciate the additional funding and support being provided to the RCMP, CFSEU-BC and our law enforcement partners, who are all working together to target, investigate, prosecute and disrupt those individuals and groups that pose the highest risk to public safety in our province,” said Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens, commanding officer of the RCMP in British Columbia. “As part of B.C.’s Guns and Gangs strategy, we will be heightening our enforcement activities, increasing the level of information and intelligence-sharing and enhancing our prevention and community engagement programs.”
- B.C. is boosting funding for PTEP, a comprehensive policing model developed in 2012. Under current policing agreements, the federal government’s contribution will bring total investment in PTEP to nearly $3 million.
- The Province already invests approximately $60 million a year in CFSEU-BC. The two new 10-person teams will increase this annual investment by $3.5 million this year and another $6 million over the next two years.
- B.C.’s last gun amnesty in June 2013 netted 1,801 firearms and more than 30,000 rounds of ammunition for destruction.
- Since 2010, B.C. has had laws prohibiting or restricting the use of armoured vehicles, after-market hidden compartments and body armour and requiring healthcare facilities to report gunshot and stab wounds to police.
- Forfeitures to B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Office total more than $63 million since 2006, of which $27 million has gone to crime prevention and community safety programs and to victims.
- Government provides more than $70 million per year for prevention and intervention services and programs to help B.C. families impacted by violent and other crime.