When Karen Reid Sidhu joined the Surrey Crime Prevention Society in 2012 as the executive director, Reid Sidhu had six months to rebuild the organization.
At that time, the volunteer-based organization shifted their focus toward maintaining community safety instead of crime prevention.
“We had lost many relationships with community partners, and I had to re-engage partners and basically rebrand all of our programs from crime prevention to community safety focus,” Reid Sidhu says.
“It’s more of a positive approach, using community safety as terminology instead of crime prevention because we don’t prevent crime as our volunteer organization. However, we do report on safety issues.”
The SCPS now runs various programs like community safety tours, traffic safety programs, and the civic pride campaigns.
A report released by the society in March found an increase in volunteers last year, and Reid Sidhu says that the society continues to see an increase this year.
“We have over 500 volunteers right now,” Reid Sidhu says. “It’s a remarkable thing to witness the growth of these volunteers.”
The majority of volunteers are high school and post-secondary students and are recruited through schools, community agencies, and businesses, with 16 being the minimum age to volunteer. However, volunteers can also apply through the organization’s website.
The organization gets funding through various organizations and businesses such as the City of Surrey, Telus, Surrey Libraries, and Metro Vancouver Transit Police.
Although they have seen an increase in volunteers, it hasn’t always been easy. When the pandemic began a little over two years ago, the organization saw fewer volunteers. But they were able to continue their programs since many of their activities take place outdoors.
Reid Sidhu says the programs help volunteers engage with the community and get the chance to learn communication skills, time management, and skills in other tasks like writing reports and documentation.
“When we have our volunteers actively engaged in the community, many young people who are just starting out don’t have the self-esteem or the courage to be part of something,” Reid Sidhu says. “So we give them that opportunity to grow.”
For example, in the Traffic Safety Program, volunteers use a smartphone app called Speed Watch to record the speed of passing vehicles and observe any distracted drivers in the area they’re in. The information is then reported to community partners like ICBC.
While the SCPS helps volunteers gain valuable experience, Reid Sidhu says the community benefits from them as well.
In the Traffic Safety program, Reid Sidhu says that when volunteers are out on the streets with their reader boards, they’re helping raise awareness about people who are speeding.
“If we see a trend, or constantly speeding in the same area, we’ll actually send that to the RCMP or transit police Surrey service and City of Surrey Vision Zero, and they’ll put some enforcement in place,” Reid Sidhu says.
“The impact has been amazing on seeing the growth of youth [and] students and seeing how they’ve evolved into either working for us or going into their dream job.”
Every year, the organization hosts a symposium where the SCPS delivers awards to volunteers for their work. In a follow-up email to The Runner, Reid Sidhu says that volunteer winners are selected by the coordinators and then the event is held either in person or virtually.
This year, the celebration will be held in person for the first time since 2019 and will take place near the end of June.
“It’s really important that we focus on building youth up and giving them every opportunity possible,” Reid Sidhu says. “When you see that growth —and the changes in somebody that was so isolated and so vulnerable — to where they are today. It’s really exciting.”