Surrey council OKs extension of BC Commissionaires patrols

SURREY — Surrey council nearly doubled the amount of dollars it will spend on BC Commissionaires in 2015, but has plans to phase out the community patrols by year’s end.

At a meeting Monday night, city council approved a jump from $459,000 to $950,000 for the safety patrol services, with the contract running to the end of this year.

There was public outcry for more police on the streets in the wake of the deaths of hockey mom Julie Paskall and Serena Vermeersch in Newton. Part of the RCMP’s solution was to kick off a Community Safety Patrol pilot project, which began in April 2014.

At the time, then-councillor Barinder Rasode took issue with the contracting out of police work.

At a police committee meeting last February, Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said there are a number of operational issues and risks in having the Commissionaires working for the RCMP.

He said there had been no significant reductions in crime trends, and expressed concern about the city being liable for the workers.

Situations could arise, he explained, that Commissionaires staff are not properly trained or equipped to handle.

They also have limited powers, and Fordy said the community may expect them to address situations, not just observe and report.

Mayor Linda Hepner confirmed Tuesday that the Commissionaires would be phased out, but noted their presence is "really highly valued" by residents.

"Until we have a strong transition plan in place, we are extending that contract," she said of Monday’s decision.

"Once we have some more folks on the ground and some of our CSOs (Community Safety Officers) have been trained, we’ll revisit it."

Meanwhile, Hepner says Surrey still hasn’t received the 20 officers Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney claims "are already on the ground."

"No one to my knowledge has yet arrived from that 100 officers," the mayor said Tuesday.

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