ELECTION: A deeper look at Surrey’s crime stats

SURREY — Seeing as Surrey’s civic election race has focused heavily on crime, it may come as no surprise mayoral opponents are taking jabs at one another over their public safety records.

Doug McCallum issued a press release Monday morning saying both Linda Hepner and Barinder Rasode’s rhetoric don’t match their history.

McCallum claims Hepner turned down an interview with CTV News on May 15 saying she was "too busy to talk about crime." Hepner said that statement has been taken out of context, and that she was driving in her car with her grandkids at the time, and didn’t want to be on the phone while driving. she said she was happy to talk another time.

But McCallum didn’t stop there. He took another jab at both Hepner and Rasode, saying both were part of the council that approved 12 new RCMP officers for 2014 when the RCMP asked for 27.

Rasode was "shockingly" silent about crime concerns during her three years as chair of the city’s police committee, McCallum added.

"A sudden concern for public safety by my two opponents is nothing more than election-inspired ploys for votes," he charged.

The former mayor said he has a good public safety record, including cleaning up Whalley with a "tough on crime approach that saw the closure of dozens of drug dens in the area." He claimed he increased police patrols and presence during his reign.

Firing back, Rasode said it’s "ironic" that Mccallum’s slate is dubbed "safe" Surrey.

"When he was mayor, crime shot up and Surrey was the auto-theft capital of North America," she said in a release. "His only concrete action was to muzzle police."

She claimed Surrey First is "denying the facts" and has taken a "wait-and-see approach." Rasode further accuses Surrey First of "ignoring the community’s cry for help" when it comes to public safety.

"Will Surrey First finally acknowledge that crime is a problem, and will Doug realize these are symptoms of chronically underfunding a police force during his time as mayor?"

Meanwhile, Hepner claimed Rasode "failed to work with the RCMP, and didn’t demonstrate any new ideas or leadership," during her time as chair of the police committee.

Mayor Dianne Watts removed her from the position in February, "making Rasode’s criticism of surrey First’s public safety platform hard to take," Hepner said, adding once Watts took over, the city approved 95 new officers, and later, another 47.

"Now, suddenly, Barinder is critical, when in fact she had more than three years to show true leadership and innovation. Talk about too little, too late," she said.

She further criticized Rasode’s plan to hire 200 "loosely trained security guards," saying they would be no substitute for real officers.

WHAT THE MAYORAL CANDIDATES PROMISE TO MAKE SURREY SAFER

Surrey First’s $21-million crime platform promises 147 new officers over two years. Hepner said it is important to have "actual, fully-trained police officers" that can make arrests.

Other plans include hiring a general manager of public safety and appointing a "citizen advocate" for each district of the city to act as a liaison between the public and police.

Hepner said funding for the city’s portion of the platform costs will come from revenues received from growth, dividends from the Surrey City Development Corporation, secondary-suite fees and existing city taxes.

On Tuesday, Hepner announced she wants facial recognition technology to help identify suspects and solve crimes, a technique used in cities like calgary.

Rasode claimed she has the only crime plan that can be implemented immediately, developed with Delta police chief Jim Cessford, that would see Surrey adopt Delta’s "No call too small" model. The plan includes hiring 200 community safety officers (CSOs) and Rasode promises council will take a 10 per cent pay cut if the commitment is not met by the end of 2015.

She says the RCMP depot in Regina won’t be able to serve up the city’s request for officers quick enough, noting Surrey is still waiting on the 30 asked for in April.

Rasode claimed it will take five to 10 years to fill RCMP positions. Mccallum and Hepner argued that, saying Surrey RCMP are committed under contract to fill requested positions in one year.

Rasode said the CSOs would cost $8 million annually, which she says she will pay for by cutting one per cent of "discretionary spending," dismantling SCDC and using revenue from new population growth. Her platform also proposes a new office of public safety.

Over at the Safe Surrey Coalition’s camp, mayoral hopeful Doug McCallum’s $21-million public safety platform includes a commitment to hire 95 new officers in 2015, double the number of cops on patrol and double the number of bylaw officers (from 24 to 48).

Within 100 days of taking office, Mccallum promises to double the number of uniformed general duty officers on patrol to 72.

Mccallum promises to invest $4 million a year for four years into a "crime prevention through social development community strategy" in connection with crime prevention programs.

He identified three sources to pay for his plan. Six million dollars, he said, would come in budget savings with no cuts to police or staff, but in part by "shutting down" the Surrey Regional Economic Summit. Five million would come from growth revenues and $10 million would come from "administrative savings" and liquidation of assets. The Surrey City Development Corporation, which McCallum said owes the city $70 million, would be eliminated.

Four independents also seeking the mayor’s chair have promises of their own.

Vikram Bajwa proposed a Surrey police department. His website states, "Municipal police are law enforcement agencies that are under the control of local government. This includes the municipal government, where it is the smallest administrative subdivision. They receive funding from the city budget, and may have fewer legal powers than the ‘state-paid’ police."

Grant Rice said the city has little control over the recruitment rate of officers. "The lag time between a formal request for new recruits can be up to a year," he noted. Rice questions whether the RCMP is the right policing model for a city of half a million people and wants to consider an integrated police force for the Metro Vancouver region.

John Wolanski has spoken of the need to address social issues, and likened walking down King George Boulevard in Whalley to walking around a warzone in the Middle East.

Wolanski notes the RCMP doesn’t have a board of directors. "We have a group of people that answers to Ottawa," he said, noting the confidence in Delta’s police detachment and it being a localized operation.

John Edwards said the city needs police on the streets now and can’t wait years to get them. He suggests bringing back retired officers to speed up the process.

He wants to review Surrey’s Crime Reduction Strategy and increase the city’s "roadable" force by 30 officers. His platform also promises a focus on youth and the mentally ill.

SURREY’S CRIME PROBLEM: WHAT THE STATS SHOW

Surrey RCMP recently released third-quarter statistics showing an increase in overall crime in the city.

Crime is up by 21 per cent for the first nine months of 2014 compared to 2013.

The statistics show property crime is up by 27 per cent during that time, and Surrey RCMP note all Lower Mainland cities have seen an increase and the detachment is working with regional police departments to target prolific offenders and organized crime groups.

Attempted murder is up by 175 per cent (from four in 2013 to 11 in 2014), break-and-enters are up 14 per cent and motor vehicle theft by 57 per cent when comparing the first three quarters of 2013 to 2014.

Meanwhile, homicides went down by 33 per cent – from 18 in the first three quarters of 2013 to 12 at the same point this year. Surrey RCMP say this decrease is related to the High Risk Location initiative.

Year-to-date, violent crime is down slightly (two per cent) in Surrey, from 4,251 offences in 2013’s first three quarters to 4,171 for the same time this year. The vast majority of incidents have been targeted and involved people in high-risk lifestyles, police say, adding violent crime has been decreasing for the past four years.

In Whalley/City Centre, violent crimes dropped slightly by six per cent during the first three quarters of this year compared to last, while property crimes increased by 15 per cent. Overall, crime for the first nine months of the year is up by 13 per cent in Whalley compared to the same time in 2013.

In Guildford/Fleetwood, overall crime was up by 29 per cent when comparing the first three quarters of this year to the same time in 2013. That includes a four per cent increase in violent crimes and a 34 per cent increase in property crimes -including a spike in break-and-enters (37 per cent) and stolen vehicles (89 per cent).

In Newton, crime went up by 26 per cent for the same time period. Violent crime was up by one per cent – homicides dropped by 50 per cent (from eight to four), while attempted murder went up by 150 per cent (from two to five). Sexual assault went up by 21 per cent. Property crimes climbed by 34 per cent, including a 15 per cent increase in break-and-enters and a 66 per cent increase in vehicle theft.

In Cloverdale/Port Kells, total crime for the same time period shot up by 24 per cent, including an eight per cent drop in violent crimes. Property crimes climbed by 30 per cent, including a 53 per cent spike in vehicle thefts and a six per cent drop in break-and-enters.

In South Surrey, crime was up by 19 per cent, comparing the first nine months of this year to the same time last year. During that time, property crimes spiked by 20 per cent, including a 40 per cent increase in break-and-enters. Meanwhile, violent crimes climbed by one per cent.

A recent Angus Reid poll of Metro Vancouver residents found just 13 per cent of Surrey residents rated their city as safe, a far cry from people living in nearby Richmond and Delta, where 71 per cent of residents feel safe.

Interesting to note is that Surrey’s crime rate over a longer time period paints a different picture.

Surrey’s violent crime rate peaked in 2001 at 7,768 – a rate of 2,113 per capita (every 100,000 citizens). That plummeted to 5,800 violent crimes in 2013, while population soared, bringing the rate down to 1,175 people affected for every 100,000 citizens.

Property crime has similarly fallen from a high of 36,521 property crimes in 2001, affecting 10,049 people for every 100,000 citizens, down to a low of 25,912 in 2010, affecting 5,539 people for every 100,000 citizens.

That number climbed back up to 5,848 people as of 2013, but is still a 40 per cent decline from the worst the city has seen.

Though, Surrey’s violent crime rate per-capita is fourth highest in Metro Vancouver, behind Vancouver, New Westminster and Langley City. According to a recent SFU study, Surrey hast the highest overall crime rate by a wide margin, the smallest decrease in the crime rate since 2008 (tied with Richmond) and the lowest clearance (solved crimes) rate of all jurisdiction.

areid@thenownewspaper.com

—with files from Adrian MacNair

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