They live in Surrey now but they have no plans to stay there.
They’re Surrey youth, and they want out because of an increase of crime… and what they saw growing up.
20-year-old Alayah Thompson grew up in Surrey, and she says she was exposed to weapons in high school.
“Batons, knives, mace. A lot of [people] that I knew didn’t make an effort to conceal them. They liked to brag about how they had the knives. They like to brag about how they had the mace.”
It was no different for 21-year-old Jordan Samson, who saw a divide among students early on.
“Gangs… that started early in grade 8. It’s a lot of racial. They would have weapons more for show, not necessarily to use them. Most of the time they would take out the weapons at lunch or after school. It’s a lot of turf wars though between races and they kind of want to gang up on one person, which is called jumping someone. They would get 10 people on one person after school, in the field.”
Across the way at L.A. Matheson Secondary, Maka Klapp says it’s because people don’t feel safe in Surrey.
“Mace, pocket switchblades, this was pretty much an everyday thing among my friends.”
And 19-year-old Amrit Parmar recently graduated from Panorama Ridge Secondary, and says the violence even broke out during a soccer game. It’s one of the reasons why she stopped playing.
“I was playing at a tournament and there was fighting going on between Abbotsford and Surrey and they ended up coming onto the field and chasing one of the players around with bats and they ended up beating him with bats. I stopped playing summer soccer after that.”
One more student, Sandy Sandhu recalls what she saw in school.
“Like brass knuckle, bats, metal rods. It was pretty ugly to be honest with you. Just for self-defense because of the bullying and the peer pressure that led to violence.”
But she says stopping the problem could be hard… as most kids aren’t willing to speak up out of fear.
“To be honest, you don’t want to say much in high school because you don’t want to be the snitch. It’s better to stay out of it and not be involved. I always stayed out because at the end of the day I don’t want to get hurt.”
With day to day violence in their lives, it may not come as a surprise that many of Surrey’s young people want out.
Asked if they planned to stay in the city, the answer was unanimous.
Parmar: “No, I wouldn’t, growing up with everything here and all the crime, I would want to steer clear of all of this.”
Thompson: “No, I’m actually planning of getting out of here. Probably small town, somewhere far away. Surrey is just going to crap.”
Sandhu: To be honest, I would never raise my kids in this city because of the issues that we are having and nothing is getting resolved. Nothing to prevent it or anything. I feel like it’s a hazard for anyone even family members. You can’t do certain things like long walks because you always have that danger in your life.”
Samson: “No, never. You wouldn’t want to raise a family in Surrey. It’s not the best place that British Columbia has to offer. Crime rates are pretty high and there has been 40 shootings in the past couple months, which is concerning for people with children. I don’t think it’s concerning just cause a lot of the shootings are targeted. But if you have young kids, it’s probably a concern if your kids want to play outside at night.”
So should parents be concerned?
Surrey RCMP Corporal Scotty Schumann says not necessarily.
“It’s not a rampant problem. We’re not hearing that kids are feeling unsafe at school, that’s just not the case.”
Schumann says school resource officers haven’t seen an increase in weapon seizures, though admits it does happen from time to time.
“Yes there are batons that are being brought to school. Some of your listeners may not be aware but it’s not illegal to possess a baton. Certainly batons are crafted as a tool for law enforcement and security. There’s no real reason to have one of those at schools and they are definitely seized when found out.”
Schuman says actual weapons seizures are rare, and that kids “inadvertently” bringing pocket knives is the number one issue.