Surrey Board of Trade Concerned About the Economic Impact of Gang Violence

CEO Anita Huberman feels it’s time for the government to step in
Ashley Hyshka, Community Reporter

The Surrey Board of Trade says that gang shootings are having a noticeable impact on local businesses. (Flickr/British Columbia Emergency Photography)

With every story that breaks about gang violence in Surrey, Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, grows more worried that it will damage the city’s economy.

To address this, the board is requesting the newly elected NDP government’s aid in combating the violence epidemic.

“We’ve always asked for a collaborative effort as it relates to public safety efforts in Surrey,” says Huberman. “But when I heard that these gang shootings were so consistent and there were so many … [I knew that] something has to be done.”

The Board of Trade makes a priority of attracting and keeping business in Surrey, but Huberman explains that due to the gang shootings plaguing the city, consumers and businesses are deterred from giving local businesses their patronage for fear of their own safety.

She says that it’s not a “one ingredient solution” but a complicated process that the B.C. government only plays one part in. Still, she emphasizes that the board needs to sit down with local government to combat the issue of gang violence.

The NDP made a campaign promise to aid Surrey with ending its crime epidemic, and the Surrey Board of Trade is intent on holding them accountable. While Huberman praises the work of the RCMP, her end goal is to get violent offenders who are responsible for the spree of violence off the streets.

“We’re doing so many good things around industry hubs, industry creation, technology creation, and when you have just a really small, small segment of the population creating such a large, loud impact when it comes to public safety, it’s unfortunate, but it has to be dealt with,” she says. “Our job is to remain consistent in our messaging … and to instigate change.”

NDP MLA for the Surrey-Guildford district, Garry Begg, feels that his work as an RCMP officer offers a unique perspective on Surrey’s current situation. Begg says that, while violence in the city can have a long-term effect on the economy, it isn’t as damaging as Huberman suggests.

Rather, he believes that it’s more of a “regional crime issue than a Surrey crime issue,” and points to the steady economic growth in Surrey as proof that it is faring relatively well, regardless of the violence.

Begg says the key to fixing the issue is implementing a long-term strategy so that it doesn’t arise again in the future, stating that it is easier “to prevent crime than have to deal with the aftermath of crime.”

Even so, he reminds concerned Surrey citizens that the government is determined to continue funding its “Wraparound Program”—which puts at-risk youths susceptible to being recruited into gangs in a positive and nurturing environment—and remains fully committed to upholding campaign promises made during the recent provincial election about resolving gang violence.
Because it is such a complex issue, he argues that solving it requires collaboration with local governments, the RCMP, Crown Counsel, schools and the community.

“We’re looking for solutions,” says Begg. “If it were a simple issue, and a simple problem, it would’ve been solved years ago.”