Trevor Beggs, Now intern
Surrey was once again recently named one of the most intelligent communities in the world, one of only seven cities to hold that honour.
If you were to tell that to a Vancouverite, they probably wouldn’t believe you. They might be too busy basking in the glory of recently being named the most livable city in North America.
The point is that both cities have their accolades, but why is Surrey often labeled with such an antagonistic reputation?
Think about this for a minute: How often do Surrey residents visit the city of Vancouver, and how often to Vancouverites go out of their way to visit Surrey?
I think you’ll find more people fit into the first category. In my experience, those who fit into the second category likely visit our city to see family members or friends – not for the sake of checking out what Surrey has to offer.
For instance, my cousins won’t make a trip to Surrey unless they’re visiting family. They aren’t doing any sightseeing.
Out of the three main bridges that connect our city to the Lower Mainland, consider the Pattullo Bridge. What are Vancouverites greeted with when they cross the rickety bridge and enter our city? None other than Whalley, which unfortunately is often considered the “black eye” of the city.
According to population estimates from Surrey RCMP’s website, Whalley/City Centre has a population of 81,096. It is the second smallest of the five districts in Surrey and sits ahead of only Cloverdale/Port Kells.
For a district with a substantially smaller population than the rest of Surrey, it is disheartening to see that its violent crime totals are higher than any other district in the city.
Surrey RCMP data shows there is an average of 2,260 violent crimes reported per year in Whalley over a five-year period.
The only district with a comparable total is Newton, with an average of 2,128 violent crimes reported. In reality, the totals don’t compare when you consider that Newton has approximately 140,000 people, almost 60,000 more than Whalley.
To Surrey’s credit, the city is working to make the area less of an eyesore in what has been called a “transition period” in Whalley.
Expect the entire district to be revamped in the coming years, and this is already evident with the current projects underway in Whalley.
Brand new condominiums greet you as you enter Surrey via King George Boulevard, as well as near Gateway SkyTrain station.
Innovation Boulevard has shed much positivity on the area. The work accomplished there has helped Surrey be recognized as one of the most intelligent communities in the world.
And just a few weeks ago, the Now reported on Surrey land developer Charan Sethi’s ambitious plan to turn the infamous Flamingo Hotel area into what he calls “Yaletown comes to Surrey.”
Sethi estimates the entire Flamingo block project will consist of 1,900 homes housing roughly 3,700 people.
The evolution of Whalley cannot be understated, which makes it unfortunate that violent crime overshadows some of the positive work in the community.
The reality is that over a five-year period, Whalley leads all Surrey districts in many unfavourable categories. There are more attempted murders, robberies, assaults and abductions reported in Whalley than any other Surrey district.
Crime stats must be consumed with a grain of salt due to the ever-changing nature of crimes. However, the numbers are enough to paint a portrait of Surrey’s shortcomings.
Unfortunately, this casts a dark shadow over a city with many young families with children, who represent a growing community with a bright future.
It makes outsiders associate Surrey with violence and crime without consideration for the beautiful Crescent Beach or the lush Green Timbers Urban Forest.
If the city wants to change that image, they might want to focus on tackling Whalley’s crime problem once and for all.
Surrey’s reputation won’t change until that black eye has healed.
Trevor Beggs is a journalism student and interned at the Now during February and March.