The community event was well-attended by neighbours of all ages. (Samantha Anderson)

Block Watch unites Cloverdale neighbourhood after gunfire scare

New group aims to bring neighbours together after October 2017 shooting

In October 2017, shots rang out in a Cloverdale neighbourhood near 172 Street and 64A Avenue, just before 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

No one was injured in what RCMP said was a targeted incident, but the normally quiet neighbourhood was shocked. It was mere months after a 22-year-old Cloverdale man was shot dead in his driveway, blocks away.

In the wake of the shooting, parents did not let their kids play outside. A shared sense of safety and community suffered.

Which is why, as T.J. Sira explained it, they came together to form a Block Watch in January 2018.

Block Watch is a program that encourages neighbours watch out for each other. The idea behind the program is that nobody knows a neighbourhood better than the people who live in it. If someone spots a suspicious person or activity, they can work together to combat crime before it starts.

Each Block Watch has a captain, or preferably a team of co-captains, that attends a training session and workshop in crime prevention. The program teaches residents how to recognize and report suspicious activity, how to prevent auto crime and discourage residential break and enters, and increase personal and public safety.

On Sira’s street, they started with safety information and educational pamphlets being distributed to neighbours.

“Our primary [goal] is neighbourhood safety and getting neighbours to know each other,” Sira explained. “We did have a couple incidents in the area, and that really got the whole process going.”

“I think we’ve had great success,” he said.

The first moment the neighbourhood really came together was during a Clean Sweep Week event in April, when Sira, along with fellow Block Watch co-captains Diane Shreve and Meena Pawar, organized a neighbourhood clean up.

“We had about 35 people show up for clean sweep and it was really good. People loved it because they got to meet each other.”

When the Reporter spoke with him on Sunday afternoon, Sira was at a Block Watch party. Dozens of neighbours of all ages had come out into the street to enjoy the afternoon and get to know one another.

Brandon, 6, shows off his face paint at Sunday's Block Watch party in Cloverdale.
Brandon, 6, shows off his face paint at Sunday’s Block Watch party in Cloverdale.

Samantha Anderson photo

Sira said the participation from younger generations was especially good to see. He pointed to a table, set up on a nearby sidewalk, with children crowded around it. “The kids have taken it upon themselves to have a youth Block Watch,” he said.

The community get-together was held Sunday, June 24. A small section of the street was blocked off and filled with tables of food, seating areas, games and activities for kids and teenagers, and members from RCMP community engagement teams.

The day before, on Saturday, June 23, there were two reported shootings in Cloverdaleone of them leading to the death 47-year-old Paul Bennett.

The day after, on Monday, June 24, another shooting occurred in Cloverdale. One man was shot, and one woman was assaulted.

But on Sunday, one neighbourhood in Cloverdale, eager to connect with one another and share a sense of community spirit, came together to break bread, talk with one another, and enjoy the early summer afternoon.

Children played a game of basketball in front of the very house where the shots-fired incident had taken place in October, while RCMP officers called out tips and encouragement.

“The feedback that I’m getting is, as people get to know each other … we can lean on each other,” said Sira. “It’s a good thing.”

Sunday’s party was a true community event; it was organized by Block Watch co-captains and supporters, neighbours brought food for a potluck, Cloverdale Save-on-Foods and Cloverdale No Frills donated food and utensils, the City of Surrey loaned tables, chairs and games.

Liam (centre) stands with members of B.C.'s Gang Intervention and Community Engagement Team.
Liam (centre) stands with members of B.C.’s Gang Intervention and Community Engagement Team.

Samantha Anderson photo

Surrey RCMP’s community engagement team came out with a booth filled with information on services and resources available to the community, and activities for kids, and B.C.’s Gang Intervention and Community Engagement Team, led by Sergeant Jag Khosa, came out to support the event as well.

“This is a neighbourhood-led initiative, and when they want to do that, it’s amazing,” he said, mentioning that it had been “awhile” since he had been invited out to an event put on by a community.

In his work with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, Khosa engages with youth to help educate, and help prevent gang involvement.

“Basically getting kids out of gangs is what our focus is,” he said. “We interact with the public. We have a lot of educational material that basically breaks the myths and realities of gangs, telling kids what they really are.”

“We can stop them before they start going that way,” he said.

They work to convince youth to leave the gang life, and connect them with different services, whether it be counselling, education or employment. The idea, Khosa said, is “to surround the kid with positivity.”

Khosa and his team members also provide information to parents, such as the Surrey RCMP Parent Helpline (604-599-7800), through which parents can get in touch with youth officers and counsellors who can help when they have concerns that their children may be involved or may be at risk of becoming involved in illegal activities.

As for Block Watches, Khosa said they are “needed.”

“A lot of times now, we don’t even know who are next door neighbour is. It’s just how things are now. Having this is amazing.”

For more information on existing Block Watches in your area, or to get information on how to start one, contact the crime prevention co-ordinator at a local RCMP District Office. Residents of Cloverdale/Port Kells can contact Surrey RCMP’s District 4 office at 604-502-6266 or email cloverdale@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

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Kid activities, good food and neighbourly conversation at Sunday’s Block Watch event. (Samantha Anderson)

A group of young Cloverdale residents have banded together to start their own youth Block Watch in the area. They plan to help educate fellow kids on safety issues. (Samantha Anderson)

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