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Crime-prevention group calls on Surrey council to rethink funding freeze

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When the Surrey Crime Prevention Society is in your neighbourhood, you might slow down – as its young volunteers monitor the speed of passing cars.

Perhaps that graffiti down the street suddenly won’t be there the next time you pass it, after a round of cleaning up.

But Surrey city council’s move this week to suspend $330,000 in funding for the non-profit society is putting much of that work at risk.

“It comes as a shock to all of us, as we had anticipated that we would receive it as we had in the past,” the society’s volunteer president Mani Fallon told CTV News Tuesday. “It’s going to mean changing our programs up, to accommodate our new budgets.”

Coun. Linda Annis didn’t participate in the vote, as it also dealt with Crime Stoppers funding, where she also works – but she disagrees strongly with council’s decision, which also means $50,000 in funding for her organization is suspended.

“They work very hard in terms of public safety,” said Annis of the non-profit. “Many of these young people seek careers in law enforcement, and these opportunities will be gone if Surrey Crime Prevention can’t sustain itself.”

Arjun Gill, an 18-year-old aspiring police officer, wants council to know what he and other volunteers actually do.

“We look around for stolen vehicles,” Gill said when asked to highlight some of the more memorable parts of his time volunteering. “I think this year we’ve found two stolen vehicles. We almost helped someone from an (overdose). We’ve called in fires, and we’ve called in lots of impaired drivers.”

Gill says his volunteer work has also allowed him to network with police officers, and get insight from them on what day-to-day work in law enforcement is actually like.

As for the reasoning for the suspension – city council had previously threatened to pull the plug on funding if the society didn’t exclusively work with the RCMP and not with the new Surrey Police Service.

“If politics is what’s leading this decision, unfortunately the casualty are the youth, and that’s not fair to them,” Fallon said.

The society aims to continue its work, but with half its annual funding now pulled, it faces tough decisions on how it will reduce its operations. Fallon is appealing to the business community to help fill the gap – as the organization celebrates 40 years of service in Surrey with a gala next month.

CTV News has requested comment from Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke’s office on this story.

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