‘No real meat’ in Surrey Public Safety Strategy, says advocate

Mayor unveils crime plan that lacks specifics on funding

Mayor Linda Hepner says the City of Surrey’s new Public Safety Strategy is “comprehensive, collaborative and measurable” but one longtime Surrey advocate disagrees.

The plan was unveiled Monday at city hall.

It includes 24 “enhanced” initiatives from the city’s first plan, the Crime Reduction Strategy, and 10 new ones, including a Community Safety Centre for vulnerable youth, a voluntary registry of residential and business CCTV cameras called Project Iris, and more supports for vulnerable residents such as the homeless, drug addicted and chronic offenders.

See more: Surrey unveils Public Safety Strategy

Doug Elford of the Newton Community Association (pictured) says he is underwhelmed.

“To me there was a lot of ambitious proposals but no real meat and potatoes,” he told the Now.  “I think it’s going to be really hard for these to be implemented without resources to put behind it. I guess our concern is this is a lot of talk and no action.”

Hepner revealed at the announcement that the city didn’t have additional funding allocated for the plan.

Rather, Hepner said much of the programming would be done by other groups and partners. She also hoped to see provincial and federal governments kick in money.

“Does that mean we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul for these?” Elford asked. “No budget increase, so is this going to be at the expense of other programs?”

Elford said he can’t help but wonder if city hall will engage the community.

“Is that going to be just lip service or will we be involved like we’ve been asking for?”

Surrey’s director of public safety strategies Dr. Terry Waterhouse, who was hired a year ago to develop the plan and receives a $170,000 salary, noted 1,600 people were consulted in the plan’s development. He promised that engagement would continue.

See more: Former Vancouver police officer hired as Surrey’s director of public safety

Hepner said the new strategy takes “direct action” on not only reducing crime, but also things like transportation safety and persistent social issues.

“Our Public Safety Strategy creates a unified vision to address all the many factors that help us feel safe in our community,” she said.

Hepner added that the city would release a “dashboard” in 2017 that will update the community on the progress of the plan.

This document is the second iteration of Surrey’s Crime Reduction Strategy (CRS), which the city claims led to a drop in crime. The 2013 CRS review suggested an overall downward trend in crime in the city from 2006 to 2012, analyzing crime statistics on a per 1,000 resident basis. During that time, total criminal code offences went down 17.3 per cent.

And the new strategy notes that total crime was down 0.4 per cent in 2015, compared to the 10-year average.

Public Safety Minister Mike Morris attended the launch and said Surrey’s innovation is drawing attention.

“The initiatives that we develop here in Surrey, such as the Surrey (anti-gang) WRAP program… are being looked at very closely by other major communities across the province.”

He added, “We’ve done a lot. Surrey is a safe community. I can’t emphasize that enough.”

Asked about provincial funding commitments to Surrey’s new plan, Morris said, “Stay tuned. Hopefully we’ll be able to make some announcements in the not-too distant future.”

Elford said he couldn’t help but notice that just 10 minutes after Morris referred to Surrey as a safe community, a shooting happened a stone’s throw out of the city.

“It’s kind of ironic.”

The Newton resident said while the government may feel the city is safe, that’s not his reality.

“We see things differently. We’ve been dealing with 20 years of prostitution, we’ve been dealing with all these issues,” said Elford. “We’ve seen the Crime Reduction Strategy come and go, and task forces and what have you, but we always seem to have the same issues.”

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

 

 

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