Police are hoping to drive gang members out of Surrey by releasing their names to the public, but experts warn the bold move may do more harm than good.

The name-and-shame strategy was announced in response to the brazen public execution of gangster Craig Widdifield, who was gunned down in broad daylight outside the Steve Nash Fitness Centre on Wednesday.

Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said local businesses, particularly bars, gyms and restaurants, will be called on to deliver a clear message to known gang members: “You are not welcome here and we do not want your dirty money.”

In the past it’s been up to the media to put gangsters’ names to faces; in 2008, CTV News revealed Clayton Roueche as the leader of Abbotsford’s UN gang. But Chief Supt. Dan Malo of the Combined Special Enforcement Unit, an agency tasked with targeting gang activity across B.C., said authorities have “entered in a new thought process.”

“The idea is eventually that we will make available, law permitting, the names of the individuals that are the most prolific,” Malo said. “Believe me that anyone that I’m allowed to release will be made available.”

Criminologist Rob Gordon said he doubts the shame lists will work, however, and pointed out that police cannot publicly identify a person as a gang member if they don’t have a criminal record.

Widdifield did not have a criminal record, and was not publicly known as a gang member prior to his murder.  

Gordon also said it’s naïve to think that gang members can be shamed into quitting their lifestyle.

“People who are close to them already know what they’re up to, what they’re engaged in,” Gordon said. “It’s an industry that’s concerned primarily, or solely with profit, and anything that gets in the way of that is obviously going to be a nuisance but I don’t see this as being an obstacle to what they’re doing.”

The Simon Fraser University professor added that asking business owners and employees to turn away gang members could subject them to some kind of retribution.

But authorities, who are already dealing with 11 homicides so far this year in Surrey alone, are eager to reverse the tide. Wednesday’s murder was committed at 7 p.m., near the busy Morgan Crossing Shopping Centre, as bystanders stood mere metres away.

“The fact that somebody would sneak up on another man in a public venue or public setting, in the presence of children, men and women that are going about their business and enjoying their evening, is disgusting,” Fordy said Thursday.

Gordon said the headline-grabbing strategy to name as many gangsters as possible is just a Band-Aid solution, and that gang activity will persist in B.C. – at least until marijuana is legalized.

“Move away from prohibition, which clearly does not work and is very expensive for all of us, and move to a system of regulation and taxation that mimics alcohol and tobacco, the other drugs. That’s the way to go,” he said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Lisa Rossington