You know you are in trouble when…

An RCMP cruiser pulls up and parks in front of your house, and an officer knocks on your door…

It never fails.

Whenever I have one of those days where the shower never happened, the hairs in a ratty ponytail and dark circles clearly show under my eyes, someone shows up unexpectedly at the door.  And after spending a full  sleepless week caring for two kids with the flu, writing , taking care of the house and all the other things moms have to take care of, a police officer was the last person I expected to see standing on my doorstep.

Truly almost welcoming the chance to escape my kids for a moment, I grabbed a jacket and joined her outside. I looked at her, and she looked at me and said: ” About a month ago you wrote a blog post about…”  Ahhh. ” The incident at the Sally Ann, right? I’ve been dealing with Brian Venables on that.”

First, a little history. It was January 4th when I posted the story about a young prostitute who had been beaten outside of the Salvation Army store in Newton, and how the staff had refused to allow anyone to call 911 to help her.

More than anything, this post was written as a commentary on the way our neighbourhood has fallen into such a state of social degradation that no one pays much attention to this kind of thing anymore. That corner where the store is located, in particular, is a freaking nightmare. Drug dealing, prostitution, pimps, addicts. You name it, that area has it all. After writing that post, a reader of mine who also happens to live in an area close by, took it up with the local Newton RCMP detachment during a meeting with the staff sergeant about crime issues in Newton.

This launched an investigation into what in fact happened the day of that assault. I was contacted earlier this week by Brian Venables, Major and
Divisional Secretary for Public Relations & Development with the Salvation Army, who assured me they were looking into the incident with the RCMP and would let me know as soon as he could what had happened, and why. He left a comment under that post in addition to contacting me personally, and sure enough, within 24 hours I received some answers. I asked Brian what I could print from that email for a public response, and this is how he answered:

“Feel free to include anything I have shared with you.
Some of the best advice I have ever received is to “tell the truth, tell it all and tell it quick”. Which I have done. ”

And so here is the response  of the Salvation Army, in its entirety because I feel it tells the entire story best. :

Thank you, for Giving Hope Today

Boy, what a day! Let me share a bit of it with you.

First of all, it is reassuring to hear about every day citizens being willing to do what they could when facing an abusive, violent attack on someone else from the community. There was no indication of reserve just because of the young girl’s situation. You wrote about her as a “hooker” but as she was being victimized she became, in everyone’s eyes, precisely what she is, a young girl who needs help.

Early this afternoon we had a meeting in our Surrey office with the RCMP to determine what could be done if this sort of incident is ever repeated in or near our thrift store. While we did talk about the RCMP response to this situation that cannot be our concern as they are our police force, in whom we trust. I have every confidence that there is a very detailed record of this incident which includes the statements and descriptions of the witnesses which will be retained for any future investigations. It is also documented to allow analysis of crime and criminals in the city.

The bulk of the discussion was around how we, as an organization, including our thrift stores and staff can make certain that the kind of inaction described does not occur in the future. While you detail how the staff were following policy, it is tough to access how someone is going to react in a crisis, particularly in their first exposure to something as tragic as what was witnessed. Obviously a policy needs to be flexible when facing a crisis, especially when the situation is so violent in nature.

A review of the policy has already taken place and all managers will be instructed to inform all of our staff that in emergencies, sound judgment needs to be exercised and emergency phone calls are to be permitted. In reality this is nothing different than if someone was in a car accident on the road out front of any Salvation Army facility and a witness comes into the unit and asks for an ambulance to be called. Of course, it would be permitted. I am also confident that no employee of The Salvation Army would be reprimanded for extending a courtesy or compassion in an emergency (or any) situation.

We do not discuss employee situations in any public forum as that is between the employee and our organization, however I can tell you that changes have been made. I know your experience with the staff in the store has generally been positive and that is what we strive for and hopefully we can regain the confidence of all those who have been concerned through this incident.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the young victim and I pray that she can escape. You need to know that just as the “tough guy” heard the pounding of the glass and stopped, she must have heard it too. What I hope she heard is “Someone Cares”.

Some ladies, who she has never met, cared enough about her to do something about her terror and make it stop!. She has likely been repeatedly told that no one cares about her, but you and the others have shown her the truth. There are many organizations and individuals in Surrey who can help her escape and get a fresh start but perhaps you have given her hope in tomorrow, by the pounding on a store window. Wouldn’t that be a great way to end this thread on your blog?

I’d be pleased to hear further from you and if there is some further action you feel would be appropriate, I am always available to chat.


Brian Venables
Divisional Secretary for Public Relations and Development
British Columbia Division

The Salvation Army
3833 Henning Drive,
Burnaby BC V5C 6N5
Phone: (604)296-3821
Fax: (604)291-0345


Which leads me back to the conversation with Cst. Morgan on my step last night.

Clearly, the RCMP take reports of assault seriously, and Cst. Morgan wanted me to know that despite the lady who called 911 being told no one would respond, she did come by and locate the prostitute who had been beaten in the neighbourhood close by.

Occasionally a ‘miscommunication or judgement call’  is made by the dispatch/call-taker and perhaps it might have been what happened here, but the Cst. could not speak to that.

However,  despite being located,  the young sex worker didn’t want to talk about the incident and refused to give any details- not uncommon in her line of work.

She refused any assistance and so nothing more could be done. I asked her if there was any follow-up to the infant in the back of the perp’s car, but she had no information on that aspect either.

So, unfortunately this story won’t end like Brian had hoped. I still believe you can only save those that want to be saved. Give help to those who seek it out, and concentrate on them, and the rest ? Well as they say, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink…

We stood and talked for a while about the neighbourhood, and it’s problems, and what it is like to be an RCMP officer in this day and age. It was an insightful  conversation, and I can understand how hard it must be for those officers who work hard to keep the peace ,to deal with the effects of the rest of the criminal system. Clearly the system is badly broken. Clearly, it is going to take a concentrated effort  by our leaders to press for changes to the sentencing and bail system. And clearly, it is not going to happen overnight. So something obviously needs to happen in the interim, and try as they might to avoid this fact, this is where our municipal leaders come in.

Seems to me that it is time to stop passing the buck, time to stop the public relation spins crafted by city hall, and pull out all the stops. If there was money to be had to give $2million to become an Olympic City, then clearly there was $2 million to be had to put towards solving the problems I’ve detailed.


At least this is how I see it.