Sense of safety waning in Surrey city core: business survey

Feeling pessimistic, some downtown Surrey businesses tell safety audit they want more proactive policing.

A survey done by the Downtown Surrey BIA reveals that more businesses than ever feel the area is 'less safe.'

SURREY — An extensive new survey of businesses in the city core suggests more than ever are feeling unsafe.

“It’s for a variety of reasons,” said summer intern Alex Dibnah, who for the past three years has produced and analyzed the annual surveys.

“A lot of it is social disorder based, not necessarily full crimes, but the type of thing you see on the streets that make you feel unsafe – so discarded needles, people loitering, drug use,” said Dibnah. “We’re not entirely sure if that is going up or if it’s just their perceptions. But regardless of whether or not it’s happening, if that’s their perception, that’s their reality.”

Every year since 2006, the Downtown Surrey BIA safety interns survey local ground-level businesses about their experiences with safety.

The 62-page Safety Audit tracks changes in businesses’ perception of safety in their area, documents concerns and gathers recommendations for improving the safety of Downtown Surrey.

This year, 205 businesses completed the survey and it uncovered a “significant sense of pessimism on the part of businesses as compared to last year,” according to the report.

A total of 29 per cent of respondents felt the area had become less safe (29 per cent) –  the most ever in the audit’s history.

“The amount of respondents who feel more or the same level of safety has been falling since 2013, while increasing numbers of businesses have been feeling less safe,” the report reveals.

And this year also marked the lowest ever percentage of respondents who felt the reputation of Downtown Surrey had improved (35.6 per cent).

Businesses’ top four concerns this year were drug users (73.7 per cent), theft (62.9 per cent), drug dealing (59.5 per cent) and discarded needles (58.5 per cent).

Social services were a controversial topic. When asked how social services in the area made them feel, most reported feeling neutral (52.7 per cent), while about 35 per cent felt less safe and noted that they attract “unsavoury people to the area” and “served as a magnet for disorder, bringing in crime.”

The report notes that many members were not “opposed to social services in principle, but feel that there are simply too many clustered together in too small an area.”

The most common and frequent crime reported was theft (47.8 per cent) and vandalism/graffiti (37.6 per cent).

But the survey didn’t just look at concerns, it also asked how to make things better. The top four themes revolved around police presence, increasing support for vulnerable individuals, enhancing security, as well as community responsibility.

Forty-five per cent of respondents wanted to see more police and security, when asked how the area’s safety could be improved, specifically foot and bike patrols.

“Get out of the car; sitting here does nothing,” wrote one respondent.

Businesses also want to see greater responsibility and proactive engagement from the RCMP. Many were aware of the high-demand nature of policing in Surrey but were frustrated that, “the high call volume in this city resulted in officer apathy and failure to respond to calls.”

One unnamed respondent said, “things happen here so often that they are seeing it as routine and feeling apathy. (They’re) only focusing on the big stuff and allowing the small things to slide by.”

As a result, many businesses will not report smaller crimes to police because they feel the police “will not and cannot do anything about it.” But, noted Dibnah, “they were understanding of the difficulties faced by police – the high call volume and the amount of work they have.”

Businesses would also like to see more support for vulnerable individuals.

“It wasn’t just housing or mental health or health in general, but all of these things coming together,” said Dibnah. “They’re not just saying move people along, they’re saying help people.”

Businesses would also like to see more lighting and security features such as CCTV cameras.

“And more people are saying we need to invest in our own security, report more and work with police more,” said Dibnah. “They’re realizing it’s not just one group that can make a difference here.”

The report recommendations include advocating for an RCMP “business liaison team” to do foot and bike patrols; working on the discarded needle issue and to work on a campaign to promote positive stories of the area.

Surrey Councillor Barbara Steele said she’s “encouraged” by some of the report, noting that when you add up the percentage of businesses who felt either “about as safe as last year” (52.2 per cent) and “more safe” (18.5 per cent), that comes out to about 71 per cent.

“That’s an indication that we are doing some things right,” said Steele, who lives in the area.

The city has stepped up resources to help the homeless, with city staff dedicated to 135A Street seven days a week, Steele noted, and has increased the police presence.

Steele said the area is a “work in progress.”

“You look at any city across Canada or the U.S. and they all have a pocket somewhere that causes grief. Grief for people that are there and grief for people around it. I think we’re working well to recognize that and to deal with it. I think the BIA is getting good co-operation.

“So there are a lot of positive things coming. The more it builds up the better it will be.”

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lord Tweedsmuir tops Tamanawis in all-cat fight for Surrey RCMP Classic title

Panthers’ Jaeden Reid was named MVP at all-Surrey boys tournament

Surrey students donate 2,000 pairs of socks

Initiative part of the Leo Club program

Surrey hosts grand-opening ceremony of North Surrey arena complex

‘Accessible’ facility features three sheets of ice

Trade to hometown team a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Surrey Eagles defenceman

Kieran O’Hearn gets to play in front of family, who live just minutes from South Surrey Arena

White Rock solid waste open house scheduled

Event to take place next month

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in lingerie store

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

Vancouver police probe second homicide in less than 24 hours

Woman was found dead in her Gastown home

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Vancouver police investigate after man found dead in vehicle

Man has not been identified and no one has been arrested

Most Read