By-law officers will enforce low-level incidents of graffiti

Winning back Whalley

City is reworking an old initiative to focus enforcement on small crimes in North Surrey

It was in 2002 when the city’s ruling Surrey Electors Team (SET) on council were given a book that would change the approach to crime prevention in this city for years.

They were on a civic party retreat at Harrison Hot Springs, when the president of the party gave each of the newly elected copy of  “Fixing Broken Windows,” written by George Kelling and Catherine Coles.

The book is based on a crime reduction practice of tackling low-level crime, and by cleaning up a neighbourhood, more serious crime becomes less prevalent.

SET councillors and Doug McCallum, the mayor at the time, loved the approach.

What followed was an unprecedented crush of enforcement on the Whalley strip, of 135A Street just north of 106 Avenue.

Road blocks were installed, extra Mounties were deployed and every city department was to report crime when they saw it.

McCallum created an Action Team to take back Whalley, one block at a time.

It’s an approach that worked in New York and Toronto’s troubled Jane Finch area.

And it worked in Surrey for a while, but observers noted the crush in Whalley caused a upsurge in Newton.

Surrey has run a successful program with extra bylaw officers acting as an addition to foot patrols in Newton. Council now wants to expand that program into Whalley.

Surrey reduced its plan to hire 16 Mounties this year, and is going with a dozen.

Instead, seven new bylaw officers will tackle low-level bylaw infractions, such as littering, graffiti and unkempt properties. The hope is area residents will take pride in the community, and criminals will see it as a less friendly place to do business.

Related Story: Surrey launches crackdown in Whalley

“If we’re diligent on the bylaw side of things, hopefully we’re join got nip some of the stuff in the bud if something goes wrong,” Coun. Tom Gill, chair of the city finance committee said Tuesday.

Coun. Dave Woods, a former RCMP officer, said he’s not concerned about the addition of bylaw officers instead of Mounties.

“A lot of those matters that are handled by (bylaw officers), shouldn’t be handled by police,” Woods said. “These low-level nuisance issues, they’re really not criminal in nature, but they impact the quality of life.”

He noted that there are bylaws about where people can smoke, those who are flicking their cigarette butts and graffiti.

The addition of seven bylaw officers brings to 55 the number of civic enforcement personnel in the city.

Jas Rehal, Surrey’s manager of bylaw enforcement, said Wednesday bylaw officers have been busy for the last few weeks up in Whalley.

The community, he said, is greatly eased just by having the bylaw officers there.

The object isn’t to issue fines, it’s to gain compliance to bylaws and keep the area clean.

He understands how the pressure on one neighbourhood can push it to another, so bylaw officers are working to help people off the street.

“Displacement is a concern to us too,” Rehal said. “We want to push them into service, be it detox, be it beds, that’s our goal right now, rather than just push them out.”

Peter Lipreti, a former councillor for Toronto’s Jane Finch area told The Leader in 2003 the trick to success will be a sustained effort.

Rehal said the city is prepared for the long haul on this approach.

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