NEWTON â€” In the wake of the homicide of Julie Paskall, Surrey RCMP have increased foot and bike patrols in Newton, targeting drug dealing, drunkenness and prostitution in the town core.
At Thursdayâ€™s police committee meeting, it was announced that the police presence in the area has increased severely over the past month. Surrey RCMP have implemented 24-hour patrols and safety officers, and members of the Surrey Crime Prevention Society have made efforts to decrease crime in the community.
Cpl. Bert Paquet said the patrols started in mid-December and increased since Paskallâ€™s homicide. The 53-year-old mom of three was attacked outside Newton Arena on Dec. 29 and later died in hospital as a result of her injuries.
â€œWe recognize that our first level of crime prevention is police presence,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s definitely a priority for us.â€
Paquet couldnâ€™t say if crime has gone up or down since the patrols started, but he said residents and business owners have responded positively to the increased presence. He also could not estimate how many cops are on foot in Newton at any given time, but he said they have a minimum number of officers required to be in the area at all times.
â€œObviously, itâ€™s subject to other operational needs and that can change at any given moment, but we always have a base of members there.â€
But Doug Elford of the Newton Community Association is skeptical that the level of patrol will be sustainable and questioned whether the increase would be permanent.
â€œIs this a full-time new policing model, or is this a short-term, reactive model dealing with the tragedy thatâ€™s recently occurred?â€ he asked. â€œWe need a commitment.â€
While Elford commended the city for adding lighting and closed circuit television coverage in the area, he wondered how close the cops are to finding Paskallâ€™s attacker.
â€œWeâ€™re happy to see them â€“ they seem to be effective and thereâ€™s a better sense of security in the neighbourhood â€“ yet they still havenâ€™t caught this guy and they havenâ€™t lifted their warning.â€
He also expressed concern that adding more officers in Newton may put pressure on the RCMPâ€™s resources in other parts of the city. The Surrey RCMP has 673 officers â€“ one for every 747 residents.
When asked if increasing coverage in Newton has detracted from police presence in other parts of Surrey, Paquet said officers who have been reassigned to Newton have been carefully selected so as not to negatively impact patrols in their previous locations.
â€œWe always try to manage our resources so other areas are not affected,â€ he said. â€œWe try to draw from pools or teams that will not affect our presence in other areas, as well as other sections.
â€œThe last thing we want to do is deplete resources in one area to focus on another.â€
Elford said the ongoing issues in Newton will likely be raised at the community associationâ€™s next meeting on Feb. 15 at the Newton Recreation Centre from 2 to 4 p.m.