NEWTON – Bike patrols, increased community policing and the clustering of social services in the area were top of mind at a safety meeting held Monday night at the Newton Seniors Centre.
The meeting, hosted by the recently formed Newton Community Association, came a
week after 53-year-old hockey mom Julie Paskall died after being brutally beaten outside the local arena.
The venue was filled to its 125-person capacity by 6:30 p.m., and roughly 300 more people arrived but were turned away.
Politicians were not allowed.
“It was very civil, very peaceful, we had good dialogue and that just goes to show you the character of the people in our neighbourhood,” said Newton Community Association member Doug Elford.
“I was impressed with the residents of Newton because they came up with some good solutions – we did hear some good answers and I’m really proud of our community.”
Many say the neighbourhood has been neglected for years and the area is now plagued by drug dealing, prostitution, petty theft and other crimes.
Elford said this tragedy has rocked the community, but also brought it together to fight for action.
“It looks like it’s bonded us and we’re going to be moving ahead and galvanize and try and get a strong voice to council and get some changes,” Elford said.
Changes will come, he said – the residents will make sure of that.
“We’re not going to sit back. We’re not going to take it anymore. This is enough. You’ve got to do something. We’re not going to put our heads in the sand anymore.” more police on street s Surrey city staff, RCMP and Surrey Crime Prevention Society were also at the meeting to speak, listen to suggestions and answer questions.
The meeting began with a moment of silence for Paskall, followed by words from Surrey’s top cop Bill Fordy and Karen Reid Sidhu with Surrey Crime Prevention, followed by a suggestion and question period.
Many called for more police on the streets. One woman said Surrey has one police officer for every 731 people, where Vancouver has one for every 504.
“Less cops, less eyes out there, less people who can enforce the law,” she said. “Less Christmas lights, more cops… if I had a choice between a cop in Newton or some more planters in downtown Newton, dump the planters, let’s go with the cops.”
Many said they wanted to see police out of their cars. Bike patrols came up numerous times. One man received applause when he asked, “If we buy you bikes, would you use them?” There were also questions about why the Newton community policing station closes at night.
One woman suggested community centres having walk-safe programs where people could be escorted to their vehicles or to transit. Many brought up the clustering of social services in Newton. One woman estimated the area is home to more than 50 such services. One man urged the RCMP to advertise their non-emergency line, which is 604-599-0502.
Police have received a significant number of tips from the public in Paskall’s attack, Fordy said, but couldn’t say much more on the status of the investigation because the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has the case. compared to Colebook Road Bob Campbell, member of the West Panorama Ridge Ratepayers Association, spoke at the meeting, and said his neighbourhood saw a lot of the same crime that Newton is dealing with.
“We have lots of low-level crime and we had trouble getting any attention to it. It wasn’t until we started having bodies appear that we really got any attention,” he said before the meeting.
His neighbourhood is home to Colebrook Road, nicknamed “Killbrook Road” due to several bodies being dumped along the rural route. A body was also found in the neighbourhood’s Joe Brown Park.
Campbell said his area saw a huge problem with transition houses.
“Our problems are almost identical (to Newton),” he said. “There’s so many parallels.”
Campbell said there’s always a move for quick fixes.
“We’ll put up lights, we’ll cut the trees, that kind of stuff,” he said. “We’ve always thought there’s more underlying problems to it.”
Campbell said his community has found these three things can make a difference: increased community policing, cracking down on gangs as well as dealing with transition and recovery homes.
“Delta has an expression, ‘No call too small.’ We joke that in Surrey it’s ‘No call at all,’ because it’s a totally different thing. I know it’s resources and priorities, but I’m saying… community policing at the level that they had in Delta.”
Too many people Lifelong Newton resident Judy Fleming attended Monday’s meeting, and brought along her 16-year-old granddaughter Alexus Wager-Parkes.
Fleming said she’s never wanted to leave Surrey, but this attack has made her question living in the city.
“We’re so overpopulated in Surrey now. The crime, every day you wake up and there’s more crime in Surrey. It’s frightening.”
While many seemed pleased with the forum’s discussion, some wanted more.
Bill Forbes left the meeting 30 minutes in because he was upset with the format.
“I came here to support the family of the lady that was killed. It’s so sad. But I also came here to see if there was some kind of action going to happen and maybe build on that. Maybe it’s going to happen, I don’t know.”
Paskall babysat 21-year-old Shilo Wishart when she was a child. Wishart attended the meeting, pleading for the attacker to come forward. Wishart described Paskall as a caring person, who always had a good sense of humour.
“I want the person who killed this woman to show their face and to have a heart, have a little pride. She was a woman, a friend and a loving person. No one deserves this,” she said before the meeting. “I don’t care who you are, you need to stand up and be a man.”
What’s next The Newton Community Association will now gather all the information collected at Monday’s meeting to put together suggestions for their next meeting, set for Feb. 15 at the Newton Community Centre.
The group hopes to find a larger space to accommodate all of those wishing to attend. Politicians will be invited to that meeting.
A collection for the Paskall family has been started. Donations to the “Paskall Family Trust” can be made at any Vancity credit union branch.