The Surrey Board of Trade is weighing in on the current state of criminal justice after the BC Urban Mayors Caucus called on the provincial government to impose stronger bail conditions and “stricter consequences” for prolific criminals.
“We know that repeat offenders cause businesses and the public distress,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the board. “Some businesses shut down or relocate because of repeat offenders, and others choose not to open shop in certain areas.”
Meantime, she said, the board is “disappointed” with the provincial government’s plan announced May 5 to hire two experts to review its response to prolific offenders and report back within 120 days with recommendations on how to improve that response.
“The Surrey Board of Trade is disappointed with the path the B.C. Government is pursuing to address the issues repeat offenders are causing businesses,” Huberman said. “The provincial government already has a report on hand that contains potential pilot projects and recommendations on how to deal with prolific offenders, but many of these have not been implemented. While this new investigation may provide an updated picture, we have yet to see the Blue Ribbon Report recommendations implemented.”
Huberman noted that housing, counselling, rehabilitation programs and employment skills training “are essential to reintegrating prolific offenders into society. Greater supportive programs are also needed.”
Huberman told the Now-Leader that in 2014 the board advised both provincial and national chambers of commerce that crime is a business issue “and needed to be focused on from an economic lens.”
That, she said, involves getting prolific offenders off the street and ensuring judicial accountability to make businesses “more secure” and “enhance the livability of not only our city but the province itself.”
The Surrey Board of Trade, in addition to recommendations made by the BC Urban Mayors Caucus, recommends that the provincial government works in coordination with the federal government to expand programs supporting offenders to receive treatment while in prison and upon release, and “for post-release housing and programming of prolific offenders to ensure successful societal reintegration and safer communities.”
“It’s not only street crime, it’s gang-related violence that we’ve seen over the past couple of months, for example, where the same actors, the same players are inflicting violence on our streets and impacting the brand of our city,” Huberman said.
While Vancouver has been wrestling with increasing street crime such as random assaults and theft to the extent that it spurred a city councillor to call for increased video surveillance – which Vancouver city council rejected – Huberman said the board is “not hearing the intensity in Surrey as it is in Vancouver.”