Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts rolls out ‘relentless’ plans to fight crime

SURREY — Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts is promising a “relentless” effort to reduce crime within the city’s limits.

“We will not stop until the job is done,” she said, repeating the phrase twice to drive the point home.

“We will be relentless and we will not stop, and we will be sending the message, as we have always been, that criminals are not welcome here.”

Watts held a press conference, with Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy, at city hall Friday to provide an update on a task force she struck last Nov. 18 in response to Surrey setting a new record number of homicide victims.

“I want to assure the people of Surrey that continuing to confront and disrupt criminal behavior is my number one priority,” Watts told reporters. “I will continue to reach out and work with anyone in the community who shares this goal. We will take any idea that will work, no matter where it comes from.”

Watts rolled out a carpet of new crime-fighting initiatives that includes the development of a new data bank, shared by city hall bylaws, the police and fire department to tackle high-risk areas “before they become a significant problem.” The city will also set up cctv surveillance cameras on major arterial roads, entering and exiting city. “We will incorporate the automated licence plate readers that will identify, in real time, stolen vehicles or vehicles used for criminal activity,” Watts said.

Moreover, over the next two years 24 more Mounties will be hired and a 20-member community safety foot patrol will be dedicated to the district police stations. A six-cop bike squad will also be set up, with training to begin Monday, and Watts said she’s also working with the provincial government to have a Crown prosecutor dedicated to dealing with chronic offenders.

Asked how much all this will cost, Watts said the city is realigning its resources to find $300,000 within this year’s existing budget. Asked from where exactly the cash will come, she replied, “We’ll have our general manager of finance, and all the other departments, as well as our city manager, do that assessment.”

Taxes will not be raised, she said. Asked how much the program will cost beyond this year, Watts anticipates $600,000 “going into next year.”

“Next year we’ll address that within the context of the budget process.”

She is also planning to meet with the federal minister of public safety later this month. “I always hope to get cash out of it,” she said.

Meanwhile, there will be a meeting next month to flesh out a plan for a community court here in Surrey.

Since Watts’s task force on homicides was struck last November, its “high risk location initiative” has seen 175 arrests, 53 criminal charges recommended, more than 340 “high risk” locations investigated and inspected, 15 search warrants executed, eight problem residences demolished or awaiting demolition, 144 unregulated recovery homes inspected, over $90,000 and 14 vehicles seized as crime-related property, and 122 street checks.

“We are targeting locations that mirror those where homicides have happened in the past,” said Fordy, officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP. “It is generally these types of locations where those living high-risk lifestyles come together and create an increased risk to public safety and potentially violent crime.”

tzytaruk@thenownewspaper.com