NEWTON â€“ The Newton Community Association is hosting a safety meeting Monday night at 7 p.m. the Newton Seniors Centre in light of the brutal beating that killed hockey mom Julie Paskall.
The group issued a press release Monday, stating the meeting would not be open to politicians from any level of government.
"In order to ensure the committee meeting being held this evening stays positively focused on hearing Newton residents and discussing solutions, the Newton Community Association is respectfully asking all local politicians to please refrain from attending," the release stated.
However, a public forum in February will be open to politicians, the group says.
Mayor Dianne Watts says city hall must lobby higher levels of government to help make Surrey’s streets safer while it takes action itself at the street level.
"I think there’s things we can do right away," Watts told the Now, as pressure mounts on city council in this election year to try to prevent homicides such as Julie Paskall’s from happening.
Meanwhile, a makeshift memorial continues to grow outside the Newton Arena, where Paskall, 53, was attacked Dec. 29 as she was waiting to pick up her son from a hockey game. She died in hospital two days later.
A collection for the family has been started. Donations to the "Paskall Family Trust" can be made at any Vancity credit union branch.
Of Surrey’s 25 homicide victims in 2013, 18 of those victims led what police call a "high-risk lifestyle," involving drugs, gangs, prostitution or other criminal activity.
Three of the 25 fell victim to domestic violence, and the remaining four died as a result of a hit-and-run traffic crash, a robbery, and attacks in which mental health issues played a role.
The outcry in Paskall’s case has been particularly great, as she was simply going about her regular business when she was robbed and beaten. Her fate could have been anyone’s.
Since Paskall’s death, Watts noted, city staff have reviewed lighting and sight-lines around the arena, deployed community safety officers and increased foot patrols, and have reviewed closed circuit television in the area.
They’re also looking at relocating some heritage trees and are contemplating the future of a forest behind the arena.
Some will say it’s high time, given recent crimes in the troubled Newton core (see the Now’s letter page, this issue).
Watts says help is needed from higher levels of government to regulate recovery houses, help manage growth south of the Fraser River, provide resources to help people with mental health and addiction issues, and to move the Newton Exchange "so we can redevelop the front of the recreation building."
Surrey had a record-breaking 25 homicides in 2013. The previous record was 21, in 2005. After that record was broken on Nov. 18, Watts set up a mayor’s task force comprising herself, police, firefighters, a criminologist, bylaws officer and school district officials, to investigate "causal factors" behind the crimes.
Chief Supt. Bill Fordy, of the Surrey RCMP, has since redeployed 49 plainclothes and uniformed police officers of all ranks, in Whalley and Newton.
As a result, 45 people have been arrested for drugs, and on outstanding warrants, six vehicles have been seized for transporting drugs, 11 people have been arrested for allegedly dealing in heroin, crack cocaine, pot, MDMA and crystal meth, and eight drug houses have been raided.
Despite a record homicide year, the Surrey RCMP recorded a 10 per cent decrease in other violent crimes across the city as of 2013’s third quarter compared to the same time the year previous. The fourth quarter report for 2013 is not yet available.
When it comes to Newton, violent crimes went down three per cent overall, from 1,637 in 2012 to 1,582 in 2013.
The statistics show a 75 per cent increase in homicide, with seven recorded homicides in 2013, compared to four by the end of the third quarter in 2012.
Robberies decreased by 17 per cent, sexual assaults increased by 13 per cent, and abductions/kidnappings increased by 67 per cent.