More Money for Layered Policing in Surrey
The Surrey Model of policing is rooted in expanding regimes of layered policing, which extends police surveillance, intrusion, and regulation into more and more spheres of social activity and everyday life. This has involved, especially, expanding the reach of police into the lives of youth through placements or connections in schools, youth groups, sports, clubs, and recreation centers. Through layered policing, police gain direct, often close, access to youth, allowing them not only to do surveillance but to engage in recruitment and training of both future officers and snitch lines in working-class communities. These layered policing programs receive millions of dollars in funding from all three levels of government.
In July 2021, the City of Surrey announced a new layered policing program, funded to the tune of $73,000 from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. Named the “Blueprint Pathways,” the program is a pilot initiative of the federal government’s gun and gang violence action fund. Gang panics in Surrey have long been used by politicians of all stripes to further shift public resources toward layered policing projects targeting especially racialized youth in the city.
The program will target “30 high-risk Surrey youth, between the ages 13 to 19,” and connect them with an “outreach worker” over the course of the 2021-2022 school year. The outreach worker’s relationship with individual young people is described as being “intensive.” We can guess what this might mean and how intrusive it might be. So far, program managers say it will involve “two to three sessions per week, per client,” which they say "will also help the youth stay away from negative peer groups and engage in more pro-social activities.” We can speculate that they might define “pro-social” activities as being in some sense "pro-police," and wonder if this also means detaching youth from community and re-orienting them towards police. This adds up to heavy involvement of a policing program in the lives of specific youth.
Most significantly, according to the city: “The initiative will expand the reach of the Surrey Wraparound Program, a longstanding youth gang prevention partnership between Surrey Schools, Surrey RCMP and City of Surrey.” This is a policing project with police fingerprints all over it. That might speak to the “blueprint” pathway being followed here.
Program managers are looking for more public money even before the pilot has been carried out. Surrey community safety manager Brian Asaebo has already made it clear: “If the province declines to offer another grant, Asaebo said he would make the argument that the city fund the project.”
Wrapped Around by Cops
The Surrey Wraparound program, or Surrey Wrap, is a collaboration between the Surrey RCMP, the Surrey school district (SD 36), and the City of Surrey. The Surrey Wrap project has received most of its funding from Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy: $880,000 between 2008 and 2011, $500,000 from 2011 to 2013 and $3.5 million from 2015 to 2020.
The government of British Columbia doubled funding for Surrey Wrap to $500,000 in August 2017. In October of that year, the government announced it was making annual funding of $500,000 for Surrey Wrap permanent.
That decision was made by the erstwhile social democratic government of the New Democratic Party (NDP). In the words of Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, who tossed in some drug war propaganda at the same time, “Surrey Wrap is about stopping the flow of young people into positions in the drug trade that open up when someone else dies or goes to jail. By keeping youth out of gangs, we can stop this vicious circle and build a better future for our communities.”
The Surrey Wrap program is operated by the Safe Schools squad. The former Liberal government claimed that over 500 youth had been through the program from 2009 to the end of their term in 2017. Surrey RCMP have at least three full-time officers dedicated to the program.
Racism and Class: It’s a Wrap
If you are wondering if layered policing projects are framed by racism and class, you would be correct. Simply look at this passage from a mainstream media account of the program:
“He looks like he’s just taking a break from the set of Westside Story, the good looks, the American-Latino glibness, but here’s a 15-year-old whose acting out is real, the gang trouble and the police a matter of record.”
Much of both the gang panic and the layered policing programs in Surrey are directed at racialized youth and their families and communities. It has especially demonized South Asian and Somali communities.
In terms of class, program spokespeople are fairly explicit that youth experiencing poverty are in their sights. Surrey Wrap has a list targeting 150 of “the most at-risk youth in Surrey, many of whom are poor.” This is telling even within the dubious framework of police views in Surrey, as they have previously claimed that gang membership in Surrey is unique because members tend not to come from poor backgrounds but are largely “middle class.”
Like other layered policing projects -- such as the so-called inadmissible patrons program, which allows police and businesses to work together to exclude patrons based on subjective factors -- Surrey Wrap gives tremendous powers of discretion to police. I have seen students targeted for intervention on no more than offensive online commentary, witnessing fights not on school grounds or during school time, or on the word of an administrator alone. It is ready-made for racial and class profiling.
Once brought into the system in this way, it can be a very difficult obstacle for youth to overcome. Students can fall behind or not complete school as a result. But these will be recorded as successes as long as they do not join a gang that they might never have joined in the first place. Such is the empiricism of layered policing.