-Youth committed to giving back to their city
Surrey: If you have attended a public event in Surrey, summer or winter, you’ve seen the green jerseys and jacket that proclaim there are Community Service Volunteers. There are about 300 of them cruising around in vehicles, on bikes or on foot, day and night, in the various neighbourhoods of Surrey. They are the volunteers of the Surrey Crime Prevention Society (SCPS) and their goal is to be more eyes on the street to help with crime prevention and public safety by observing and reporting, so the police and appropriate agencies can deal with the problem.
The Society’s history is one of evolution operating a wide variety of programs to meet the changing needs of Surrey since 1981, and over the decades they’ve promoted and fostered safe bike operation, safe speed and road behaviour through Speed Watch. They have patrolled the mall parking lots impacting auto theft as well as theft from cars, and so much more. Not only have they been a critical component in maintaining a safe community, the SCPS has been the launch point for many young people into careers in policing, with many alumni on patrol with the VPD, Delta PD as well as the RCMP.
This is a well-trained, concerned cadre of (mostly) young people who care enough about their city to spend their spare time trying to make Surrey a safer place to live, play, go to school and work and develop an even more focused career in law enforcement and related fields.
Karen Reid Sidhu is the Executive Director of the Surrey Crime Prevention Society (SCPS), and spoke with Ray Hudson about the impact the society has on the community and the young people who volunteer to provide the services.
Ray Hudson: How do you define the SCPS?
Karen Reid Sidhu: We are an organization with over three hundred volunteers, mostly youth, university and high school students, who support many public community safety programs, making a difference in the community by observing and reporting, raising public awareness about and educating the public about various safety initiatives.
Our volunteers are out about the community. They are the extra eyes and ears for many agencies, not just the RCMP. They observe and report on people who may be drunk in public or people who are dumping things illegally. If we see graffiti we report it to the city. We report on issues related to bylaws, we’ll report a dog left in a car in hot weather, or suspicious activity in a parking lot.
We also observe and report on medical emergencies. Two of our volunteers on the Citizen’s Community Safety Watch, came across a woman who had her arm severed when she tried to jump onto a train. They called it in and as a result, medical care arrived promptly and saved her life.
The Society works collaboratively with our community partners such as the RCMP, Surrey Fire Department, watching for fires. as well as raising fire safety awareness. We assist Surrey Bylaws, the City of Surrey, Business and many service groups in the city.
Ray Hudson: What form do their activities take?
Karen Reid Sidhu: Our programs include ‘Community Safety Tours.’ We don’t call them patrols anymore, as we’re getting away from all the terminology that is aligned with policing. Our volunteers conduct these ‘tours’ in Fleetwood, Downtown Surrey, Newton, Guildford, Cloverdale and South Surrey, five days a week. Four nights a week, our volunteers are out in all five districts from 9 pm to 2 am, observing and reporting in their own vehicles. We’re very targeted in our approach working closely with the RCMP District Commanders who alert us to the issues in these areas. We attend community events like Fusion Fest and many more to add a little more security for the public.
Karen Reid Sidhu: While setting up a traffic safety Speed Watch in a neighbourhood, Volunteers heard a house alarm and observed a suspect running away carrying a knife. They didn’t pursue him, instead they watched and reported from a distance. As a result he was apprehended by the police. They are under strict instructions, and they are well trained not to engage. Instead they observe and report, and always from a safe distance.
Ray Hudson: What kind of training do the volunteers get?
Karen Reid Sidhu: We make sure our volunteers are well trained for the jobs they do. We offer:
First Aid Training – The Surrey Firefighters Association, gives us 75 spots for First Aid training. Many volunteers already have First Aid but those coming out of High School don’t, so it’s offered for them.
Bike training – We’ve taken the best of a number of courses and combined them to best meet our needs. Once trained, they go on ‘tour’ on bicycle, to communities like Guildford, Downtown, Fleetwood, Newton, South Surrey and the Crescent Beach area.
Team Leadership training – It’s important that the volunteers know there’s always someone there to check and balance the programs. Team Leadership Training occurs when an individual is identified as a strong candidate to supervise the volunteers. So, if we can’t have a staff person on duty, a team leader takes over and works with the volunteers to ensure they follow protocol and make sure that they take notes in their books, because these documents may become evidence as the volunteer may become a witness at some point.
Career Preparation Documentation: Our oversight is very comprehensive. We track all the hours of the volunteers and ensure that they get performance reviews when they’re volunteering. Many of these volunteers want to go into policing or public service. If we get a call from a recruiter, we want to be able to speak in detail about that volunteer. We know that they are making a significant contribution to the city, and we want to make sure that it’s reciprocated.
Ray Hudson: Who can be a volunteer?
Karen Reid Sidhu: Our volunteers must be sixteen. We have a program through the high schools called LEAP (Learn Experience Achieve Participate) they come to us through the work experience program, so we have Grade 12 students who are wanting to go into criminology or law enforcement through the Justice Institute or SFU, and we have criminology and business students to support us in the office. We have volunteers coming from most of the post secondary institutions across the Lower Mainland. Some come all the way from Abbotsford. The RCMP refer volunteers to us while these applicants wait for their enhanced clearance for the Force. We require that anyone who drives have a driver’s abstract, and everyone must have a criminal background check.
Youth At Risk, is a program where some of our experienced volunteers work with and mentor young people who have been identified by the police as being at risk. We connect them with a mentor and put them to work in the SCPS programs. These young people participate in our programs. They wear our jackets and function as part of the team along with their mentor. This is a very unique model.
Ray Hudson: What’s been the outcome?
Karen Reid Sidhu: I get goose bumps when I read the testimonials from the participants, the mentees. These are young people on the wrong track. They’ve been kicked out of school, referred to us by the Ministry of Children and Families, or the schools. We connect them with a volunteer who has made a commitment to become a mentor. We do a profile on both the mentor and the mentee, to ensure a good match. The outcome has a 99% success rate.
One of our mentors, Jerry Gunadasa, has been so successful with his mentee that the young person became part of the RCMP Youth Academy and has been accepted to go on to the Justice Institute in the fall. Recently, Jerry was also named one of the Surrey Board of Trade’s 25 Under 25 award winners. This is the calibre of the people in our program.
As the Executive Director, but more importantly as a Mom with young adult children, it’s so heart-warming to see such amazing youth so committed to giving back to their city. All you hear about in the news is negative, and for every one, I can show you many youth in our community who give back.
It’s very exciting to be part of this. I live in the Newton town centre of Surrey and I want to make sure that our community is well covered and supported. I get tremendous satisfaction from seeing the commitment from these youth and I get tremendous satisfaction from knowing that they’re on their way to attaining the dream job that they are striving for. I’ve been to the swearing–in ceremony of two of my volunteers (for their policing careers) and expect to witness a good many more.
For more information, please check out Surrey Crime Prevention’s website at www.preventcrime.ca