Denial, violence, talk: the cycle must stop

You could excuse Surrey residents for feeling a vivid sense of déjà vu Tuesday night.

In what has sadly become an all too familiar scene in our city, hundreds of concerned residents packed the gym at Tamanawis Secondary to hear from their community leaders about Surrey’s most recent rash of violence.

What they heard was nothing new. It needs to stop.

We’re doing everything we can. We can do this together. We will fix this.

It was only a few months ago – reeling from the death of teen Serena Vermeersch – we all huddled together inside Newton’s Senior Centre for an anti-crime discussion called Rally4Change. I stood outside because the place was so packed.

"Until I hear that my and our world view and our perception is valid and what we as a community can do about it, nothing is going to change. It’s going to continue to be our reality," Newton community advocate Naida Robinson told the crowd.

Nine months prior to that emotional rally, residents jammed into the very same hall to talk about crime in response to the murder of Surrey mom Julie Paskall.

"It looks like it’s bonded us and we’re going to be moving ahead and galvanize and try and get a strong voice to council and get some changes," Newton Community Association member Doug Elford said at the time.

And on it goes. It seems in Surrey, we are bogged down in a never-ending cycle of denial, violence and talk.

It goes something like this: 1. Our elected officials in Surrey refuse to acknowledge Surrey has a crime problem, arguing that our city suffers from an undeserved reputation as a crime-ridden city. Everything is grand. Nothing is wrong with Surrey. (Oh, and by the way, vote ‘Yes’ for transit.)

2. Violence happens to such a degree that our community-boosting leaders must no longer ignore or deny it. (After 13 shootings, our mayor says it’s unfair that she’s asked about crime – after all, she’s not the sheriff, right? But after 18 shootings, the badge comes on and she’s had enough.)

3. Community rallies for change, hosting town hall meetings, hoping their voices will be heard by city leaders.

4. Repeat.

Like it or not, we are living in a city where many parents refuse to let their kids out to play, lest they be struck by stray bullets.

Like me, these people don’t care how hard the RCMP is working. They don’t care how disgusted or "astonished" our mayor is about the shootings. They don’t want hear empty phrases like "it needs to stop," or "we can do this together."

The people of Surrey need their leaders to have a clear – and consistent – stance on the crime that is ripping their neighbourhoods apart at the seams.

Then, and only then, can we truly "do this together."

Beau Simpson is editor of the Now.

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