A second chance for the select few who are ready
Surrey: The End Gang Life Gang Exit Pilot Program takes a new approach by helping the individual develop a program tailored to the individual to deal with the issues that led that individual into gang life. But for adult gang members who want to get out, a multi-agency pilot program may be the ticket to a new life as opposed to ending in jail or the morgue.
The $1 million two-year Gang Exit Pilot program provides $500 thousand to expand the BladeRunners Program delivered through ACCESS and the Skilled Trades Employment Program (STEP) delivered through the BC Construction Association. The skills and trades training programs will help exiting gang members and recently released inmates gain the skills they need for jobs. The expansion of these programs will also assist youth transitioning out of care, Aboriginal people and people with disabilities.
Another $500 thousand will fund a range of services to support participants, as well as support the daily operations and evaluation of the program led by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CFSEU-BC) in partnership with the City of Surrey and other community partners.
Gang members wanting out have to demonstrate a strong motivation and serious commitment to quit gang life and must pass an intake assessment through a dedicated project co-ordinator and outreach worker. If accepted, another key element of each participants’ exit plan will focus on outreach to peers, family members and the broader community to build a support network to keep participants on track and keep them from going back.
“The Gang Exit Pilot is no easy ride and is not a get-out-of-jail-free card,” explained Mike Morris, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “This pilot program won’t save everyone and it’s not intended to, but for the select few who are ready, this is their second chance. It’s my hope that, when we look back in two years, we will have developed a results-driven program that we can consider implementing province-wide.”
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner explained that the Pilot to end gang life is an important part of the city’s Public Safety Strategy.
“We know the importance of the role that enforcement plays, but it is equally important to have the program, personnel and services in place at the front end with prevention, and then at the back end for those that are hoping to break the cycle of violence and gangs,” she said. “For those smart enough and ready to break that downward spiral of gang violence, the gang exit pilot is your opportunity to really make a change.”
Citing the participation of various ministries encompassing public safety, jobs, gaming grants, in school programs involving interdiction, Amrik Virk Minister of Technology and a local MLA described the pilot program as “a combined effort across government.”
Chief Officer of the CFSEU-BC, Chief Supt. Kevin Hackett said “The pilot builds on the success of our End Gang Life prevention and outreach work and takes it to the next level by creating personalized exit plans for each participant that work to break down barriers that often prevent them from a successful second chance. We look forward to the lessons learned from this pilot and to changing lives. At the end of the day that is what it is all about.”