Surrey’s mayor is striking a special task force to examine drug houses and the effect of mental illness on policing after this city’s murder rate hit 22 this week – an all-time high.
On Monday morning, police found a body of a man in front of a home near 99 Avenue and 120 Street.
Police say the home is known to them, being partly related to drug activity. The man who was killed was not a resident of the home.
The homicide brings to 22 the number of murders in Surrey this year, the highest on record.
In response, Mayor Dianne Watts is creating a task force of police, Surrey School District educators and criminologists to examine what is occurring and come up with possible remedies.
Watts notes the city is going through spikes in murders every four years.
“It’s not a coincidence, something is occurring,” Watts said Monday. “We just want to drill down and see what’s behind it. Is it (soft) jail sentences? We don’t know.”
The task force will analyze four-year cycles of crime.
In addition, the city will be identifying any known drug houses in Surrey and conduct an analysis of police and city bylaw department resources.
“We’re finding a lot of police officers are spending time off of the street,” Watts said, such as when they are dealing with mental health calls.
As to how the city or police would stop a murder, Watts said therein lies the problem.
“Well you can’t, and that’s the problem,” she said. “What we can do is make sure that whatever’s around it, that we’re doing everything we possibly can.”
That could involve more school-based prevention programs aimed at deterring youth from choosing a high-risk gang-related lifestyle, she said this week.
On Tuesday, Watts sent out a joint release with Surrey’s top cop, RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy, who addressed criminals directly in his statement.
“I must advise people who associate with those in a criminal lifestyle that your enabling behaviour could lead to tragic consequences,” Fordy said in the statement. “For those who choose to engage in criminal behaviour, we want you to know that you are not welcome in Surrey and that if you choose to embrace the criminal lifestyle, you will end up dead or in jail.”
Out of the 36 files (some that include multiple homicides) the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is handling this year, 21 of them are in Surrey, representing 58 per cent of IHIT’s total caseload in the region.