Burnaby city council has approved a plan to use federal money to study local anti-gang work, including the effectiveness of the RCMP’s two-year-old anti-gang unit and its youth section.
$1 million for SFU research
The Building Safer Communities Fund, first announced in March, is designed to help communities prevent gun and gang violence by tackling the roots of the problem.
Burnaby’s plan for the funds, which is awaiting Public Safety Canada approval, includes three proposed research projects: a study of the risk factors for youth who get involved with gangs and guns, a study of the Burnaby RCMP’s youth section, which works at local schools, and a study of Burnaby RCMP’s gang enforcement team (BGET).
“The intent of that, of course, is to understand the specific activities undertaken by BGET … examining how these activities meet the needs of the community and document how the establishment of BGET has impacted gang related outcomes,” general manager of public safety, Dave Critchley said to council of the gang team research.
The studies will be conducted by researchers in SFU’s school of criminology, according to a report on the plan.
Over three years, the research component will take up about $1 million of the city’s $2.9 million grant allocation, which is based on the nature and frequency of gun and gang violence in Burnaby.
The city plans to spend $1.3 million of the grant on programs for youth at risk of gang involvement, including a new mental health liaison worker who would work closely with school settlement workers, a year-round mentorship program for youth aged 12 to 15, a Burnaby gangs and guns prevention video project and more.
The city also plans to evaluate each program and put out reports outlining “achievements, successes and challenges.”
Some of the grant will be used to pay for a new manager of crime reduction and intervention position, filled by Dawn Virginillo late last year.
Gang problem on the rise
The city saw a spike in gang violence starting in about 2020, according to the Burnaby RCMP.
While some kinds of crime, such as property crime, went down, incidents of violent crime jumped.
“There have been shootings, attempted murders, carjackings, kidnappings, and we’ve seen a push for some of the gangs to come into Burnaby,” former Burnaby RCMP officer in charge Chief Supt. Deanne Burleigh told the public safety committee in July 2020.
That year would see nine confirmed gang shootings and one gang killing, according to the Burnaby RCMP.
In 2021, four shootings and four homicides were linked to gangs, and in 2022, gang violence was behind three more deaths and seven shootings.
The Burnaby RCMP's gang enforcement team, which was assembled out of reallocated resources within the detachment, according to Burleigh, was launched in January 2021.
The city expects its plan for the Building Safer Communities Fund money to be approved in July and will get to work on the projects “immediately,” according to Monday’s report to council.