SURREY — Face-to-face interactions with residents “will not be replaced by new apps,” Surrey’s top cop told a crowd at a Surrey Board of Trade crime luncheon Thursday.
“Talking to each other is important. Sharing information is important. And truly sharing ownership of our community’s issues is important,” said Officer in Charge Bill Fordy at Eaglequest Golf Course.
His comments come in the midst of a shooting spree. So far this year Surrey has recorded 31 shootings incidents. Last week police arrested five people and seized 13 guns, and Fordy is confident police will put an end to the violence.
But he said the perception of crime is as important as the reality of crime. “In fact, I oftentimes think it’s more important,” he remarked.
“If an employee sees a store window broken and he hears about a theft that’s been committed at a local restaurant… he’ll perceive that it’s a bad neighbourhood even if those are the only two incidents… Similarly, a business owner in another community sees a police officer on a bike, is greeted by people acknowledging her presence, knows her local district commander…. She will likely perceive that crime is under control.”
Fordy emphasized RCMP’s efforts to engage the community, pointing to 17 safety meetings and forums over the past year, one coming up on Monday, April 18 at the Bell Centre for Performing Arts on youth, drugs and violence.
Fordy told the crowd that 60 per cent of RCMP’s calls for service involve social issues, and said a new “SMART” program is helping those in Surrey that are most vulnerable.
He said it reduces risk factors such as violence on the streets, suicide, emergency room admissions and people living on the streets.
Fordy touted many other new strategies and technologies being used to enhance policing in Surrey: a focus on intelligence-led, evidence-based policing; expanding the crime analysis unit; and the creation of a Community Services Section. The officers running those units, said Fordy, are the “faces” of their districts meant to “enhance the wellness” of that particular community.
Meantime, Fordy urged businesses to talk to their employees in the workplace.
He encouraged parents to have “honest, meaningful discussions with their children” about the “value of hard work” and the “failings of the criminal lifestyle.”
“We will not arrest our way out of this issue. We will educate our way out of this issue,” he said matter-of-factly.
In the Q&A portion of his keynote speech, Fordy had some strong words.
“There are lots of wonderful things happening in the city… We have kids from Surrey who go to NASA. We have 300,000 people on the streets for Vaisakhi showing incredible community spirit with no issues. We have sports teams and soccer teams that compete on an international level,” he said. “Those things get lost and I have to be cautious, I have to be non-partisan and impartial, but it’s not lost on me that sometimes the narrative is driven by people that have a personal agenda that may not be keeping with all the great things that happen in our community.”
Darlene Bowyer, co-ordinator of Surrey Association of Sustainable Communities, took that comment as a jab at her group’s efforts. The organization has been calling for a round table meeting on Surrey’s crime issues with all three levels of government.
“I was completely alarmed at that,” said Bowyer shortly after Fordy’s comment. “We, the community, are very upset that we have this ongoing shootings… To target in his speech the people that are trying to organize meetings and trying to do better by our community, to say that we have a hidden agenda is unacceptable.”