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Ex-gangster says prevention programs could have saved his friend

(Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

The provincial government has announced $500,000 in annual funding for the Surrey WRAParound program

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – The provincial government has announced $500,000 in annual funding for a Surrey gang-prevention initiative.

“The government made a commitment to tackle gang violence, to take gun violence out of our community and make our community safer for kids,” says Premier John Horgan, who adds the money will go to the Surrey WRAParound program, which provides at-risk youth with resources and support to avoid a life of gang violence and criminal activity.

“The WRAP program provides counselling, recreational activities, mentoring substance abuse and mental health assistance when needed, life skills, job placement and other things,” Horgan explained ahead of a Jiu-Jitsu demonstration by another program, Yo Girl | Yo Bro. “We’re going to ensure the school district has the support it needs so we can help kids get on the right track.”

Jordan Buna is one person who would have benefited from help, and believes his friend might still be alive if more anti-gang violence programs were available when he was in school.

Buna says he and his friend were from good homes with parents who loved them, but found themselves engaging in criminal activity in high school. “Both boys didn’t get any help and none was offered.”

In and out of jail, he says the pair’s decisions would ultimately lead to his friend being fatally shot.

Now a member of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, Buna spends his time working with students to steer them away from gang life.

“The WRAP program has the unique ability to stop a young person at the beginning of their path of negative choices. A path which often ends in disastrous consequences if left uninterrupted.”

He believes the announced annual funding represents a commitment by the provincial government. “A commitment to the realization that we can no longer simply be reactive to the problems of young people becoming involved in gangs and the drug trade.”

Organizers say 300 people have been helped out of 600 families. Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says prevention is the key to stopping gang violence and crime, and explains the program is part of a multi-pronged strategy.

“It is vital that we have the resources in place to deter the at risk from entering the gang lifestyle,” she says.

Program like the WRAParound are aimed at stopping the flow of at-risk youth into gangs when current drug trade members leave the trade.

There have been more than 40 shootings in Surrey so far this year, many linked to gangs and the drug trade.