SURREY — Surrey’s shootings situation so far this year is much worse than we thought.
The media has been reporting 15 or 16 shootings in 2016 but on Friday afternoon at a press conference the Surrey RCMP confirmed a jaw-dropping 28 “shots fired incidents” since Jan. 1st. That’s half of last year’s entire tally, in the first three months of 2016.
Police say most are related to the drug trade and five of the 28 incidents are believed to be connected to a new drug war different from last year’s dial-a-dope turf war.
So far there have been five injuries and one death this year, on March 11, when a shooting victim crashed into a tree in Newton. In nine cases shots were fired into a residence or building. Most happened between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“Over the past few weeks the Surrey RCMP has seen an increase in shots-fired calls which is understandably causing concern for the public and the police,” said Supt. Manny Mann. “Since January 1st of this year the Surrey RCMP has received 28 confirmed complaints relating to shots being fired.”
Police also displayed $4.5 million in heroin, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, fentanyl and fake oxycontin recently seized from a motorist in Newton on March 16. Police say it is the largest single drug seizure in Surrey’s history.
Gill wouldn’t reveal if the heap of drugs was seized from a truck or car, but as for the sheer volume, he said, “It surprised us as well.”
Pardip Hayer, 30, from Abbotsford has been charged with four counts of drug trafficking.
Mann said this year’s shootings don’t involve the people who were involved in last year’s conflicts. But again, like last year, it’s been over drugs.
“I can confirm that five of the 28 incidents are associated to a new drug-related conflict between two groups.”
There has so far been three arrests related to the 28 incidents. Police haven’t put a name to the two new groups but characterized them as low-level players.
Mann appealed to people with information to “do the right thing” and call police.
The police have not until now revealed to the public that there has actually been nearly twice the number of “shots fired incidents” in Surrey than what the media has been reporting. Mann noted that March saw a “spike” in shootings and the majority were “targeted, which leaves us to believe there is not a significant threat to public safety and it’s important for us to investigate each and every one of these files, work with our criminal analysts and ensure we provide context to the public.”
Supt. Shawn Gill added police “don’t want to create fear when there’s no need to.”
“We need to be responsible when we do go out to the media,” he said.
Gill said the drug seizure is significant for not only its size but that a large amount of deadly fentanyl has been taken off the street. “The seizure of this amount of drugs will have an impact on those who are fighting over it,” he said.
Gill said fentanyl-related deaths constitute a “national epidemic.” With the amount seized in the Newton bust, he said, “We believe it’s going to save lives.
“Young people are being lured into this criminal lifestyle with the illusions of money and power, but the reality is much different,” Gill said. “We have an issue that goes beyond the police. It involves the entire community, parents, extended family, friends, schools and prevention programs. For our part, we are working day and night on this issue.”