This week, the City of Surrey and RCMP have launched an assault on problems that are keeping people homeless and mired in street life in Whalley.
A team is now focusing on the notorious “strip” along 135A Street, between 106 and 108 Avenues.
Known as the Surrey Outreach Team, it is comprised of 12 Surrey RCMP officers, four bylaw officers, and officials from Fraser Health Authority and Emergency Health Services.
The team will conduct outreach work in hopes of finding housing for people living on the street, while police will crack down on those dealing drugs to them or causing other trouble.
There were 128 overdose deaths in November, according to the B.C. Coroners Office, more than double the provincial average per month since 2015.
Surrey has launched the outreach program to enhance public safety with the help of other public and private partners in the Whalley area.
Prior to the official launch of the team in January, Surrey RCMP officers and bylaw officers have been readying for the program by building relationships in the area.
“Though in its infancy, the Surrey Outreach Team is committed to an accountable ownership of issues that continue to be a challenge for this part of our city,” said RCMP Supt. Shawn Gill, Surrey RCMP’s Community Services Officer. “By consistently and strategically working together we are enhancing the safety of our residents and businesses as well as community partners in the area.”
The Surrey Outreach Team is currently working out of a mobile command centre on 135A Street until a temporary office can be built.
When vulnerable persons receive support and develop increased capacity for healthy, safe living, it often leads to a reduction in criminal activity and a reduced demand on social services and policing, noted Dr. Terry Waterhouse, director of public safety strategies for the City of Surrey.
“We are changing the way we approach the issues in the 135A area with our new City Centre Response Plan,” said Waterhouse. “Together with the Surrey RCMP and our community partners we are committed to addressing the issues in this area with tangible, concrete action. The Surrey Outreach Team is an important component of this plan.”