Crime: ‘Knowledge is power’

Businesses in a Cloverdale community are hoping those who live nearby will remember three simple words to help prevent crime.

Trust your gut.

After all, when a suspicious looking character rides around a family neighbourhood with an organics container filled with stolen plants and flowers strapped to the front of his bike, red flags must go up with somebody.

And when five 100-pound tree grates are stolen from in front of a busy business and residential complex? Well, somebody must have seen something go down.

Indeed, "undesirable" people are causing all sorts of grief in Clayton and Hillcrest – and they often start by committing the "stupidest of crimes," said Jen Temple, asset manager at Hillcrest Village Shopping Centre.

Mailbox break-ins, stolen porch furniture, stolen flowers, stolen car batteries, stolen sunglasses – you name it.

"We’re getting hit like crazy right now," Temple said.

Already this year, Surrey RCMP have had 28 break and enter calls in the Hillcrest Village area – eight business and 20 residential. That’s up from 2014, which had a total of 38 for the whole year – six business and 32 residential.

And the fact that residents are reluctant to call police when they see something odd isn’t helping.

"People aren’t calling in and reporting them," she said. "How do we, as businesses, get people to call? Because it affects us… Those people are breaking into our stores."

Temple said residents can help by being more aware of people who "clearly don’t fit" in the community, who may be just loitering or scoping things out.

"It just looks odd, so report it. It doesn’t have to be a big crime."

So why aren’t residents calling police when they see strange people lurking around, stealing things like flowers?

Temple figures people either don’t know what kind of suspicious behaviour warrants calling it in -or more than likely, they are just too busy.

"But that ‘too busy’ might come back and rob your house or steal something off your porch."

But where are these creeps coming from? Temple said she suspects the Hillcrest area is a victim of Port Kells’ success. After that community "took back a lot of their streets," the "undesirables" went elsewhere.

"Port Kells pushed them out and they’re coming our way."

Darlene Bowyer, president of the Port Kells Community Association, said it’s likely that’s just what happened.

In that community, four people living in one house racked up 1,100 negative contacts with police – the real definition of "prolific offenders," Bowyer said.

They rode around the neighbourhood on bicycles, lifting little things like weedeaters or anything they could get their hands on.

"They were robbing us blind," Bowyer said.

Fed up, the community rallied – the whole neighbourhood got involved with nightly patrols, calling things in to 911 at all hours of the morning.

At first, those calls weren’t well received – after all, it’s not a crime to be seen riding a bike at 2 a.m. But after several meetings with RCMP, Bowyer said police directed 911 to respond to anything from Port Kells, no matter how small. And with cooperation from RCMP, the community was able to evict those four prolific offenders from their house and neighbourhood.

Bowyer has advice for neighbourhoods like Clayton and Hillcrest that are dealing with such crime issues.

"You have to get very vocal." Surrey RCMP Staff Sgt. Martin Blais agrees. As zone commander of the area including Clayton and Hillcrest, he said even if you don’t think it’s worth calling police, you should trust your instincts.

"If you see something that doesn’t click, call us," Blais said. "When in doubt, call us. We need to know."

When it comes to crime prevention, he added, the more information, the better.

"Knowledge is power in Surrey." beau.simpson@thenownewspaper.com

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