COLUMN: Crime is part of Surrey’s fabric

There has been a long series of tragic incidents in the city. At some point in time, we as a community need to ask ourselves why.

It is no small coincidence that the verdict in the Surrey Six murder trial was handed down Thursday, at a time when Surrey residents are fed up to the teeth with the murder and mayhem in this city.

On Oct. 19, 2007, six men were murdered in a Whalley highrise as part of a turf war between rival drug gangs.

As citizens reel from the latest murder of Serena Vermeersch, another completely innocent victim, on Sept. 16, let’s not forget the long string of previous murders and the many innocent victims – Chris Mohan and Ed Schellenberg among them. Let’s not forget Julie Paskall, a hockey mom who was at Newton Arena to pick up her son on Dec. 31, 2013 when she was murdered.

It is unfortunate that the anger which erupts when a particularly brutal incident, which certainly applies to all three of the crimes mentioned, cannot be sustained.

However, when it dissipates, the politicians, judges, lawyers and law enforcement officials who often play an unwitting role in these crimes by their action or inaction, get off the hook.

A discussion I took part in a few days ago reminded me of just how long this has been going on – and the crime I was discussing with people is only memorable because of its utter brutality. It left an impression on Surrey that has never gone away, and perhaps it never will.

The online discussion was with several people who were children in Surrey at the time of Clifford Olson’s reign of terror, way back in 1981. Olson lived in a highrise on King George Highway, within sight of the highrise that was the scene of the Surrey Six murder decades later.

In the spring and summer of 1981, Olson was busy snatching children and teens off the street and murdering them. He was convicted of 11 murders, but most police involved in his case agree there were many more murders.

Not all the child killings he was convicted of took place in Surrey, but far too many did.

There has been a long series of tragic incidents in this city. At some point in time, we as a community need to ask ourselves why.

Surrey is filled with mostly peaceable people who have come here from all over the world. Many who live here grew up here or nearby. Most Surrey residents want better lives for their families and work hard to try and make that happen.

Unfortunately, there is a strong underbelly of drug dealers, low-lifes and predators with tentacles in far too many places.

Surrey RCMP is now the largest detachment in Canada, and has many excellent officers on staff. However, many of them are new to policing and to the RCMP and coming to this city as a first assignment is undoubtedly overwhelming.

Most citizens feel that the police have too few resources to keep up with all the criminal activity, to say nothing of trying to monitor ex-cons like Raymond Caissie, who has been charged in the Vermeersch murder.

Another infamous Surrey moment was when the Whalley Burnouts made national news in the 1980s and made the city a laughing stock from coast to coast.

Surrey doesn’t need to be this way. However, it will take strong and sustained action by thousands of citizens to change it. Don’t count on any politicians to make it better. Ultimately, it is up to all of us.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.


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