City of Surrey parks manager Neil Aven speaks with Cheryl Wilcox (second from right) outside of Sunnyside Hall Wednesday, following a meeting that included Wilcox’s partner Alex Jackson (right) and the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture Laurie Cavan. (Tracy Holmes photo)

South Surrey mother of assaulted teen says she ‘has to try’ for changes

City officials begin review of Bakerview Park, police increase patrols

Standing by the dugout where her 18-year-old son was beaten unconscious last month, a South Surrey mother said she is taking a “wait-and-see” approach after meeting with city officials this week about the park’s safety.

“I don’t know what difference us meeting with them will make,” Cheryl Wilcox told Peace Arch News at the park shortly after Wednesday’s meeting, her hands trembling at being back in the location where her son was injured in a late-night attack. “Have to try.”

Wilcox and her fiancé Alex Jackson met with City of Surrey parks manager Neil Aven and general manager of parks, recreation and culture Laurie Cavan at Sunnyside Hall – across the park from the dugout where her son was assaulted on Aug. 27. The teen suffered chipped teeth, a dislocated shoulder and a concussion, among other injuries.

READ MORE: South Surrey park attack ‘could’ve been so much worse’

Wilcox shared the details with PAN two days later, in an effort to boost safety at the park. She said that for several years she’s had concerns with after-dark activity in the greenspace at 1845 154 St. – the same park where teen Dario Bartoli was killed in an early-morning assault nearly four years ago – and called for increased police monitoring and late-night lighting.

Following Wednesday’s meeting, Wilcox acknowledged lighting likely wouldn’t have the desired results.

Cavan told PAN last week that lighting is “typically not” recommended to increase park safety; it’s costly and can “lead to some negative impacts.”

READ MORE: 18-year-old’s assault prompts safety review at South Surrey park

Wednesday, she said a promised review of the park got underway last Friday by staff trained to identify environmental-design elements that could contribute to criminal behaviour. That review is ongoing, Cavan said.

She described the meeting with Wilcox and Jackson as “a really good discussion” that included input from the city’s bylaw department.

Her goal, she said, was to “understand what (Wilcox’s) concerns are.”

“It’s not the behaviour we want to have happen in our parks,” she said, of the violence. “We take it seriously.”

Jackson said conditions around the park – including at a nearby, overgrown city lot – were among points of discussion. The group agreed that enforcement of park rules is key, and Cavan encouraged anyone noticing suspicious activities after hours to alert police.

Wilcox told PAN she did exactly that last Friday, after spotting a group in the dugout area around 10 p.m. Police were quick to disperse them, she said.

Jackson said officials need to keep “making it uncomfortable for kids to be here” after dark, noting: “The only people that can do that is RCMP.”

Sgt. Chad Greig confirmed police have increased patrols in the park since the assault, both by general-duty officers and members of the South Surrey Community Response Unit.

Investigation into the incident is ongoing and there have been no arrests or charges at this point, he added.

 

Cheryl Wilcox and Alex Jackson talk about the impact of an Aug. 27 assault on Wilcox’s 18-year-old son, in the dug-out where the teen was left unconscious. (Tracy Holmes photo)

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