From The Editor: Don't live in fear of Surrey's gang violence

(Scott McLelland)

When shells fall on the doorsteps of Surrey’s upper-middle class homes, local media often flock around the homeowners for information. Much more common than interviews with a gang member’s loved ones are profiles on citizens who are concerned about feeling secure in their neighbourhood.

This concern might be valid in theory, but in practice, average Surrey residents are rarely harmed in gang-related shootings. It’s the people in gangs who are killing and being killed, all the while having an inhuman representation of themselves broadcasted for the world to see.

Surrey will never end its gang violence if it continues to demonize the people who are involved in it. While there are countless factors that have contributed to where the city’s gang violence is today, it seems obvious that pushing people away out of fear is more than just ignorant. It simply doesn’t work.

Linda Hepner, the Mayor of Surrey, has done little to help create a more neutral environment in the city as of late. At an early August press conference she said that a “toe tag and jail are the only options for these guys if they don’t choose to accept the help we would offer if they want to end their gang life,” adding an ominous threat that the city was “coming after” them.

It seems that the municipal government has been fighting these issues for so long that they have lost their patience. Now, they’re acting ignorant and brash.

Mayor Hepner’s words will do nothing to convince gang members to turn themselves in and convert to a life of lawfulness, but they may create an even more hostile environment. If we blindly hate the gang members, they have even less of a reason to care if they’re endangering our lives. If we refuse to see the humanity behind the firefights and crashed cars, they have no reason to see ours when we tremble at the sound of the news report in our homes.

One of the most terrifying things about being human is that people can be ugly, vicious creatures. That doesn’t make them less human. Every gang member has a different story behind them, and a different reason why they’re involved in violence. None of us know those stories, and it isn’t our place to assume that gang members are monsters that want to hurt us, point blank. By extension, we can’t treat them that way.

With respect to Surrey’s homeowners, and to the government officials adding to gang-related bias, your fear is unwarranted and toxic. Certainly it’s important to take precautions, and it’s unfortunate that innocent civilians have to be acutely aware of their surroundings in order to avoid bodily harm, but that’s a regular part of living in society, no matter where you’re living.

Instead of letting the media convince you that you’re living under the tyranny of evil Surrey gangs, use this as an opportunity to reflect on why this is happening, and what should be done to fix it.