'Enough is enough'

UPDATE: 11:10 a.m.

Anti-gang advocate Sukhi Sandhu says he will be watching closely as the new city council in Surrey attempts what many local governments before have considered but few have done: replacing its RCMP with a municipal police force.

The city is among the fastest growing in the province, with a young and diverse community that speaks more than 100 different languages and where about one-third of its residents are under 19. It's expected to surpass Vancouver in population as the largest city in B.C. by 2041.

With that growth, the longtime resident said he's concerned about gun violence involving youth, even as the RCMP says overall crime is on the decline.

When two teenagers were found dead on a rural road in what police called a targeted shooting in June, Sandhu said many in the city felt the same way: "Enough is enough."

"We have no hesitation in saying that we are at a crisis point socially in Surrey," said Sandhu, who is a spokesman with the anti-gang violence group Wake Up Surrey.

"We've seen rapid growth in our city in terms of our development but at the same time we've seen a social decay."

Council unanimously passed a motion immediately after it was sworn in this week to terminate its contract with RCMP and begin forming a municipal force.

The RCMP says it would be the first time a local government moves from the national force since Cape Breton, N.S., made the move in 2000. Abbotsford, B.C., dropped the Mounties in 1995, when it amalgamated with Matsqui and formed the Abbotsford Police Department, and a small town in Prince Edward Island made the move in the early 1990s.

ORIGINAL: 8:30 a.m.

The latest shooting death in Surrey has uncovered signs of tension over the city's decision to replace the RCMP with its own police force.

Mounties say a 22-year-old man died in what is believed to be a targeted shooting early Friday, and it appears to be linked to the region-wide gang conflict.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum released a statement saying the death is "yet another example of the ongoing trauma and fear that are being inflicted on the communities, residents and families of Surrey."

One of the mayor's election promises was to get rid of the RCMP in favour of a municipal force, and McCallum said council is moving rapidly on that front.

The mayor said he's "dismayed" by the resistance from the provincial level and he urged Premier John Horgan to remove any roadblocks to help the transition proceed.

RCMP Deputy Commission Brenda Butterworth-Carr then issued a statement in response to McCallum's comments, saying as citizens of the region they, too, are alarmed when there is gang violence in our streets.

"Statements like this risk undermining public trust and confidence in police," she said. "Any erosion of public trust and confidence challenges our ability to solve complex cases with assistance from people who are often reluctant to participate in the first place."

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth also responded to McCallum's claims in a statement, saying the government is working with Surrey on its policing plan.

"No one is putting up any roadblocks," said Farnworth. "We are prepared to work with the mayor. He has to be willing to work too. A new police force isn't created over the weekend but the province is committed to working with the city as they move forward."

The minister said the government wants to make sure a strong plan is in place that ensures people in Surrey have policing they can be confident in.

The government has invested in anti-gang programs in Surrey and enhanced policing and will continue to work to ensure people feel safe, he said.

Premier John Horgan said there is a "serious issue" with gang shootings in the Lower Mainland and the province wants to address that. He said the province would work with McCallum when the mayor brings forward a plan.

"We need to have a plan. You can't just get in front of a microphone and say, 'Why haven't you fixed this?' It takes work and he knows that full well."

Butterworth-Carr said their department is working with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team to find out who murdered the young man.

She said she wants to reassure the public that their officers, the integrated policing teams and independent policing forces will work diligently to maintain public safety.

"Until Surrey RCMP is no longer the contracted police service, our employees must be allowed to and will continue to police safely and effectively. I will not allow public confidence in policing to be undermined or eroded," she concluded.

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