Three shootings in less than 24 hours have residents in Surrey worried their neighbourhoods are no longer safe.
In Clayton Heights, the site of the first shooting Tuesday near 70 Avenue and 180 Street, there are signs asking cars to slow down for children playing, a playground and a well-used park.
Nicole Fraser said it’s normal for kids and families to be outside all day long, riding bikes, walking the dog and visiting with neighbours. She herself drops her three- and four-year-old children off at a daycare there.
But within the last day, that feeling of safety has evaporated.
“Everybody feels like a hostage,” Fraser said. “This is happening in the daytime, with no regard to children outside.”
Police looking at many persons of interest
All three shootings are still under investigation, and they are suspected to be targeted and involving the drug trade. RCMP say they have several persons of interest.
“In these particular incidents, we actually have viable information that we can follow up on and we certainly hope that will help us develop suspects in these incidents and hold them accountable,” Cpl. Scotty Schumann said.
Fraser says break-ins and car thefts have become more common in her neighbourhood.
“Up until the shootings yesterday, it was just petty theft,” she said. “This is the peak of it.
“We live in an upper middle-class neighbourhood. That means that we all pay an exorbitant amount of money on housing and property taxes. To fork out that much money, only to feel like a hostage in my own home, is infuriating.”
Gang-related crime cyclical: police
Shootings are down by 40 per cent this year compared to last, Schumann said, because of a recent surge in arrests.
“But with those people gone,” he said, “new people move in.”
Meanwhile, more than 100 new officers were added to the local force last year, and 16 others so far this year.
Said acting mayor Tom Gill: “I think things are progressing and we’ve made an incredible amount of ground over last year, but given the number of incidents we’ve had in last two to three weeks, it’s disheartening to see what’s happening.”
Gill looked to the rash of targeted attacks in Abbotsford during B.C. Day long weekend, as well as crime in Langley, and noted it’s a South-of-the-Fraser issue, not just a Surrey one.
“I’m going to be very clear of this, I am chair of finance, I do suggest that with unprecedented increases in terms of policing, and portions of property tax related to public safety, and the public safety initiatives we’ve had…. we’ve made some tremendous strides in terms of those investments,” Gill told the Now-Leader. “It’s just really concerning that a very negligible portion of the population are impacting the community as a whole. It’s just a handful of individuals that are causing this chaos.”
Gill said residents’ concerns are “genuine.”
“I’m personally exhausted with the activity that’s happening as it relates to gang and gang activity. It is quite concerning,” he said. “We all have young children that are a vibrant part of this city. It’s very imperative that we get this issue under control but certainly I think when you’re looking at a solution, the solution is quite broad. We need community leaders to come out, we need parents, we need the RCMP, we need politicians, we need advocates, we need every element and corner of this community to come out to resolve this problem.”
Gill called on the new provincial government to look at more funding for certain police units, specifically the CFSEU (Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit).
“The provincial government has an opportunity to show some leadership and show us that they’re going to make investments,” said Gill.
Mike Farnworth, the new minister of public safety, told Black Press gang crime is a priority.
Repeating rhetoric from the spring election campaign, Farnworth said RCMP members have called for the province’s anti-gang agency, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, to get more funding.
“The priority is to disrupt gang violence and to disrupt these criminal gangs as much as we possibly can and put them out of business,” he said.
Farnworth is meeting with RCMP at E Division headquarters in Surrey Thursday.