FOCUS: ‘How many witnesses do you need,’ residents ask in wake of shooting spree

SURREY — In the wake of a spree of violence that has seen 27 brazen shootings in the span of 10 weeks in Surrey and Delta, some residents are starting to wonder when the shooters will be brought to justice.

On Tuesday, police announced two more men have been arrested and charged, bringing the total to three. But residents of an area in Whalley that has seen four shootings within two blocks of their homes have mixed feelings about the seeming lack of progress from police.

One woman we talked to at her front door Monday pointed to the spot where one of the shootings happened on March 28. The woman, who did not want to be named, said the fact that RCMP haven’t made more arrests is "ridiculous."

"It’s so frustrating that you have all these crimes, you have all these problems but they don’t get solved," she said Monday. "It’s just a lot of lip service but no action."

She said she can’t understand why police can’t find these so-called "low-level criminals" when they have so much experience dealing with the "high-level" bad guys – especially with the detailed information they have.

"My husband gave them the exact description of the car, the van that was involved… how can you not find them?" she asked, adding her niece actually witnessed the daytime April 1 shooting at 64th Avenue and 128th Avenue.

"She was in shock but she called the police and gave them exact details but they told her they still can’t find the car. How many witnesses do you need to arrest these people?

"It’s just very frustrating, you know? It’s just very frustrating."

One man who lives in the same area said he fully supports the RCMP and their efforts.

"It can’t be easy for them," he said, pointing the finger instead at residents whose lips are sealed.

"There are people who know things about the shootings and aren’t saying anything – that’s the real crime."

Francesca LeBlanc is new to her neighbourhood in Whalley. She reported one of the shootings in the area after realizing the sound she heard was not firecrackers.

LeBlanc says police are doing everything they can.

"How can police be everywhere? These things happen in a matter of seconds."

IT TAKES TIME, COPS SAY

On Friday, May 8, the Now asked Surrey RCMP how many people had been arrested and how many charges had been laid in connection to the recent shooting spree.

At that point, the answer was one arrest and zero charges laid in Surrey.

Arman Dhatt, though, had already been arrested by Delta Police on April 10 and faces 12 gun and drug related charges. Guns, heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine and a "significant" amount of Canadian cash were seized, police say.

Then on Tuesday, Surrey RCMP issued a press release announcing three people have now been charged – Dhatt, who now faces 19 charges, Pardip Brar who is facing 12 charges and Rajvir Sunner, with four charges. Two more men have been arrested but were released pending further investigation, police say.

Between the three men, 35 charges have been laid, most in relation to drug-related crimes, and additional charges are being considered. None of those charges are actually connected to a shooting, but rather are a result of four search warrants.

Here’s why: "As a result of the shootings, we’ve been drawn to these people… This is more of a campaign because frankly, it’s going to be extremely difficult to prove who actually pulled the trigger," Sgt. Dale Carr told the Now.

"I could do a search warrant in your home tonight, find a gun,now I take that gun and I send it to the lab and it gets linked to some casings we found at a shooting. All that tells me is that you are in possession of a gun that was involved in a shooting… It doesn’t tell me that you shot the gun at that time. I know we can maybe take that leap… but not the court of law, they’re not going to take that leap," he continued.

Carr explained Crown counsel will not approve a charge until all the evidence is before them, such as lab results and forensic analysis.

"We would love to be making more arrests… however we are also committed to ensuring that we put forth a product which will meet both the charge approval standard and secure a conviction. That takes time.

"The only way we, frankly, in my humble opinion, are going to get that is if something flips, someone points a finger."

The lack of co-operation from shooting victims is still proving difficult, he added.

Carr said police have redeployed resources strategically in areas of the city where they expect violence to happen.

Police say 499 vehicles have been checked and 21 vehicles, 13 weapons and nearly $24,000 have been seized.

"We do indeed have descriptions of vehicles down to the colour, but that is it. If we did find the vehicle we would have to prove who was in it and who was driving and who did the shooting," Carr noted.

Regardless of how many arrests and charges have been made, one man in a neighbourhood smack-dab in the middle of four shootings summed up how residents in his area feel about the whole thing.

"We just can’t wait for it to all be over."

With files from Tom Zytaruk

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