Newton BIA director Philip Aguirre holds the first-ever ‘State of Newton’ document which calls for more investment in the community. (Photo: Amy Reid)

‘State of Newton’ calls for area’s ‘fair share’

‘We’ve been under invested in terms of our population,’ says Newton BIA director

For the first time, the Newton BIA has released a policy document calling for the community’s “fair share” of investment.

It was set to be revealed during the inaugural State of Newton event on Friday morning (Oct. 20).

It’s about “advocating together” as a community, instead of businesses and residents doing it separately, said Newton BIA director Philip Aguirre.

See more: First annual ‘State of Newton’ planned

Although the document’s creation was led by the BIA, it was created in partnership with seven other community groups in Newton, including Newton Community Association, Panorama Neighbourhood Association, East Panorama Ridge Community Association, West Panorama Ridge Ratepayers Association, Friends of the Grove, and others.

“Newton needs to be noticed,” he stressed. “Newton is a large community and needs to be a priority federally, provincially, civically.”

Given its population, Newton hasn’t received its share of infrastructure, he said, be that transit, police or public facilities.

Aguirre noted Newton has a population of 146,000, making the Surrey community larger than the City of Kelowna and the City of Langley.

“Population compared to investment, Newton needs to be a priority…. We’re double the size in population of Cloverdale, Whalley, or Guildford, or Fleetwood, or South Surrey,” he said.

“If Cloverdale is half the size of us, then Newton should have twice as much infrastructure, twice as much investment in policing and placemaking, and events. We want to make sure people are aware of the size, the economic impact, and how that should be a priority at all three levels of government.”

And, he noted 33 per cent of Surrey’s businesses are located in Newton.

See also: Casino license leaving Newton a ‘loss of potential’ says BIA

The State of Newton policy document calls for an increase in RCMP in the area. Specifically, a three-per-cent increase in annual general-duty officers in the area.

It also seeks a 100-per-cent increase in the Community Response Unit in the area.

Surrey RCMP describes the units as a “specialized team dedicated to addressing ongoing community concerns.” Officers in the units have “strong backgrounds in community policing.

They are based out of each of the five district police offices. CRUs work with bylaw, fire services and local business, and the majority of their work involves targeting problem residences associated with drug dealing or property crime, and areas frequented by prolific offenders.

“It’s the stereotypical kick-down-the-door, do a raid,” said Aguirre. He thinks an increase to these units in Newton would be the “best bang for your buck” to get results.

“In 2015, total crime went down by five per cent, last year total crime went down by nine per cent. This year by the second quarter we were down by 25 per cent…. A lot of those stats are on smaller issues,” like petty crime, said Aguirre. “And who follows up with those thousands and thousands of calls? Those proactive initiatives? It has to be Community Response Units.”

The document sets a goal of a five-per-cent reduction in crime, but Aguirre noted statistics are already decreasing.

“But people don’t want to hear about crime stats. Until you improve community confidence, no one believes the stats. We need to overcome that.”

Furthermore, the document calls for the creation of a “universal security patrol,” which Aguirre said would involve private security in addition to RCMP and bylaw.

The group also wants to expand many existing programs, including the BIA-funded Safe Ride home program that drives intoxicated people to Quibble Creek Sobering Centre, as well as the BIA’s Homeless Count.

See also: Newton BIA survey finds 55 homeless in town centre

The policy document also calls for more of a mixed-use community, a cultural entertainment district in Newton, an arena and convention space, as well as a hotel development.

Aguirre noted that not one of the five major city-hosted events is held in Newton.

“We need our own little Holland Park,” said Aguirre. “It’s not rocket science what the community of Newton expects. And those expectations are not being met.”

Key to the area’s revitalization is the proposed Surrey light-rail line would terminate in Newton, Aguirre noted. He said that project creates hope for the community’s eventual redevelopment. But that line may not materialize until 2024.

“Large infrastructure projects take time. We have to keep working,” he said.

See also: VIDEO: Newton mural captures Surrey community’s past, present and future

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