Surrey to hire four bylaw officers for public safety pilot project in Newton

NEWTON — Surrey is moving to a three-tiered public safety model in Newton that involves bylaw officers as it phases out a community patrols contract with BC Commissionaires.

The commissionaires patrols – which are expected to have cost $950,000 by the time the contract expires at the end of 2015 – were added in the wake of the deaths of Julie Paskall and Serena Vermeersch.

In February, Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said there had been no significant reductions in crime and expressed concern about the city being liable for the workers. Plus, they have no enforcement powers, he noted.

City manager Vincent Lalonde said the commissionaires were a "stop-gap measure."

Starting in 2016, the city will transition to the new model where the bylaws department, RCMP and Newton BIA will partner to combat crime in the area’s core.

The police committee – which all of council sits on – voted in favour of the model Monday.

"Our goal is to enhance the service that we’re currently giving and looking forward a year from now or two years from now, there will be more engagement, more visibility and more efficient enforcement," said Fordy.

In 2016, the city plans to hire four bylaw officers specifically for the pilot project. The new hires lead the community safety patrols, focusing on community engagement and lower level nuisance enforcement.

On the RCMP’s end, it will continue with enhanced service in Newton. In the past 22 weeks, the RCMP says it has stepped up policing in Newton’s core by way of overtime. The detachment says this has resulted in 463 street checks, 203 violation tickets and 40 arrests.

A report noted a Community Constable program has replaced the RCMP’s discontinued Community Safety Officer pilot project. Training to transition officers to the new program is set for September, for tentative completion at the end of February 2016.

Finally, the third tier will be the Newton BIA, which is establishing a community patrol program similar to that of the Downtown Surrey BIA’s.

If successful, the model may be utilized throughout the city.

Meanwhile, city council voted to change the name of the police committee to the public safety committee.

areid@thenow newspaper.com

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