Surrey unveils Public Safety Strategy

Mayor Linda Hepner says the City of Surrey's new Public Safety Strategy is “comprehensive, collaborative and measurable.”

Surrey's Director of Public Safety Strategies Terry Waterhouse.

SURREY — Mayor Linda Hepner says the City of Surrey’s new Public Safety Strategy is “comprehensive, collaborative and measurable.”

The strategy, unveiled at city hall Monday, takes “direct action” on not only reducing crime but also emergency response, disaster preparedness, transportation safety and persistent social issues such as substance abuse, mental health, and homelessness, Hepner said.

“Our Public Safety Strategy creates a unified vision to address all the many factors that help us feel safe in our community,” she said. “The strategy brings together agencies and resources under a single action plan… We will measure our progress and successes every step of the way as we deliver this strategy in partnership with numerous community agencies and stakeholders.”

This document is the second iteration of Surrey’s Crime Reduction Strategy (CRS), which the city claims led to a drop in crime. The 2013 CRS review suggested an overall downward trend in crime in the city from 2006 to 2012, analyzing crime statistics on a per 1,000 resident basis. During that time, total criminal code offences went down 17.3 per cent. Meanwhile, break-and-enters went down 23.8 per cent and violent crime was down 23.6 per cent.

Director of Public Safety Strategies Dr. Terry Waterhouse, who was hired a year ago to develop the plan, said the “degree of engagement” with the community was higher this time around, noting 1,600 people were consulted. He promised that engagement would continue throughout the plan’s implementation.

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“We have more prevention supports for youth, particularly those at risk. We have more intervention programs for our most vulnerable. We have more integration and collaboration on every aspect of public safety. We have a better use of technology and data. We have more engagement with and from our community. And we have more collaboration with other levels of government,” said Waterhouse.

“We’ve really ramped up our integrated services,” he added. “Our population is more vulnerable than ever before, with homelessness, issues with substance issues and mental health.”

The new strategy includes 34 programs, 24 “enhanced” initiatives from the CRS and 10 new ones. One new initiative is a mixed-use Community Safety Centre with programming aimed at vulnerable youth in partnership with RCMP and the school district. The facility would include community forums, educational programming, early intervention initiatives as well as restorative justice and social development programs.

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A Cyber Security Outreach program is also new, as is a Girls Got Game initiative (an after school initiative targeted towards immigrant and refugee girls aged nine to 13).

A Clayton Heights Activity Team is in the plan (providing safe space for youth), as well as a new program to monitor and address problem properties.

Other new initiatives include Project IRIS (a voluntary registry of CCTV cameras to help police quickly gather evidence), Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (using location-based crime and traffic data for efficient deployment of law enforcement resources), a Safety Mobility Plan (utilizing new approaches to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities), and the Integrated Services Network (a multi-agency partnership that would target “social chronic” offenders).

Click here to read more about the plan

But to achieve its new plan, the city isn’t throwing additional funding at it, revealed Mayor Hepner at the announcement. Rather, much of the programming will be done in partnership with groups in the community, through existing city resources, and the city hopes the federal and provincial governments will assist with funding.

“We’re confident that we can do this strategy within existing means and within opportunities of funding for other levels of government,” Hepner told reporters after the announcement.

“We have no additional (funding) other than each year we add to the budget, for instance, this year I think we have 16 public safety officers, whether police or fire or bylaw, so we add every single year. But that’s part of a growing community. Outside of that, no. But within the various departments and what they’re asking for we would expect things to happen on an annual basis and we’re ready for that.”

Public Safety Minister Mike Morris attended the launch and said Surrey’s innovation is drawing attention.

“The initiatives that we develop here in Surrey, such as the Surrey (anti-gang) WRAP program… are being looked at very closely by other major communities across the province.”

He added, “We’ve done a lot. Surrey is a safe community. I can’t emphasize that enough.”

Asked about provincial funding commitments to Surrey’s new plan, Morris said, “We’re working with Surrey on a number of projects right now…. Stay tuned. Hopefully we’ll be able to make some announcements in the not too distant future.”

The city says it will release a “dashboard” in 2017 that will update the community on the progress of the plan throughout its implementation.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

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