SURREY IN FOCUS: Shedding crime image hasn’t been easy for city

More police and a focus on prevention part of future plans.

The City of Surrey has budgeted for 100 additional RCMP officers for this year.

For decades, Surrey has been fighting the negative image that it’s a crime-ridden bedroom community of Vancouver.

Some of that perception has been inflated, but statistics bear out a lot of the claims of crime waves.

A crush of violent crime descended on the city in 2013, a year that marked 25 murders – the highest number of homicides in Surrey’s history.

That year ended with the horrifying random murder of hockey mom Julie Paskall, as she waited for her son at a hockey tournament in Newton.

Politicians and police, visibly rattled, asked the public to be extra vigilant when out at night.

It was little comfort for the community of Newton, which packed a community centre in the days following the attack on Paskall.

The community message at the forum was loud and clear: People wanted “more boots on the ground,” meaning extra police on duty right away.

The following year, a civic election indicated politicians heard the cry for help.

Surrey First, which installed Mayor Linda Hepner and all eight councillors, promised 100 new officers in the coming budget.

They were ordered and the community waited for them to arrive.

Many doubted whether the force could deliver such a large number to Surrey.

After being hammered by the NDP in the House of Commons, Federal Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney said in June there were “20 boots on the ground” in Surrey.

But none had arrived by that time.

Meanwhile, crime statistics in the city continued to paint a grim picture.

RCMP-generated quarterly statistics showed that in the first half of 2015, violent crime skyrocketed by 34 per cent and attempted murders were six times higher than during the same time in 2014.

In Newton alone, attempted murders were up 900 per cent during that period, followed by Whalley, which recorded a 300-per-cent increase.

The 40 shootings in that period accounted for the biggest increase in attempted murders. Half of those were tied to a drug turf war between an Indo-Canadian group and an organization of Somalis.

Other crimes also increased significantly.

Sex assaults were up 65 per cent, abduction and kidnapping were up 55 per cent, and robbery increased by 33 per cent.

No community in Surrey was spared the increase in violent crime.

As of September of this year, Hepner said Surrey had received about half of the police the city ordered.

Going forward, law enforcement officials are planning to use the extra resources to get ahead of the crime and stop it before it occurs.

Surrey is also in the process of hiring a general manager of public safety.

His or her job would be to implement plans already in place and to lobby senior levels of government for further resources.

That would likely include asking for some assistance dealing with people suffering from mental illness, which represents a good portion of police work.

As the promised new Mounties arrive and prevention plans are implemented, the city is hoping it can turn the tide of crime in the city.

The citizens profiled in these pages are certainly contributing in that regard.






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