Surrey ranks in the Top 10 Most Dangerous cities in Canada – so why not add slot machines to one of the poorest neighbourhoods?

I was just in the local RCMP detachment yesterday reading that theft from vehicles in Surrey is on the rise.

This little tidbit was found in the Block Watch newsletter.( As is all crime, I suspect – wait until the next bunch of stats come out) I’ve been writing about this for some time, only to be told that I’m full of it.  ‘Crime stats are down’ is the mantra from Surrey city hall and woe to anyone who says differently.

But, let us go back to the news that I now  live in the 9th most dangerous city in Canada.—by-rank/

The mayor is sure to have an issue with this piece, but this is nothing new. Yet another shooting here last night.

Has anyone ever stopped to wonder where all these criminals live?

They live here, in Surrey.

They live and work and play and get gas and then get shot, all here in Surrey. Many in Newton. I can show you a few homes with closed circuit cameras on every corner and some high end SUVs in the driveway. But there are far more street level criminals on the poor side of the tracks living near Newton core.

And to add fuel to the fire, mayor Watts and council would like to put slot machines into Newton, smack dab in the epicenter of Newton Town Core.

Now wait, I know you are wondering why anyone would do that, but it gets even better.

They are so intent on ramming this through as a ‘gentrification effort’ in this neck of the woods that they are doing so in  apparent violation of the city’s own gaming policy, which states: “Gaming in Surrey is to remain restricted and is only to be considered if it is part of a ‘cluster of tourism’ type facility, which is regional/provincial in scope.” 

Direct violation of the cities own gaming policy. Now what would be good enough to contravene the cities own directive? Read on.

The proposal is not, and never will be, part of a tourism type facility as indicated by the cities own policy.

It is located right in front of  a subsidized housing development where the majority of residents are on social assistance. There are plans for an addiction and rehab centre right down the street, as well as a shelter for women and children.

There is a homeless shelter on the next block and a cocaine addicts recovery club  further along the street. And don’t let me forget all the seedy hotels where homeless are often housed by the ministry when their time is up in the shelter.

Yes, I can see what an inviting area it will be for tourists to come to…… NOT. Good grief. What is the city thinking?

I understand that the developer is trying to sweeten the deal with the city by offering 25 million in improvements, including a tie into the Newton bus loop which will be transplanted from its current location to a property across from the proposed facility , and  will even throw in a community policing station while they are  at it. I’m sure there are more goodies to sweeten the deal we don’t know about.

This story in the Leader tells it all :

Sadly, this will never be a facility that will clean up the area and to even suggest that it will is foolish and speaks to how little the city cares for the residents in this area. We need slot machines here like we need another load of  addicts and drug dealers.

The area around Newton Town Centre has the highest concentration of rental social housing in the city, as well as the lowest incomes.The neighbourhood surrounding the bingo hall has three times the number of people on welfare that Whalley has. It is one of the cities poorest neighbourhoods.

Not even the inclusion of a community police station will make a difference. The current one is one block from the bus loop which is a hotbed for  street level drug trafficking. Prostitutes freely roam the area.  There are so many social service agencies in this area , and yet they seems to be unable to make a dent in what is going on here…. and  yet this mayor is still talking about slots to gentrify the area.

It is all part and parcel of the The Newton Rejuvenation plan.

A plan that will not work as it stands, and let me tell you why. I am not the only one privy to the minutes of  ongoing meetings who has an issue, although I am the only one who will come forward and speak openly about it.

The murals, banners and planters did nothing to address the real issues.

The crime continues unabated, and the worst part is that so many of these addicts, dealers and criminals live among us. Get to know your neighbour? When they are smoking drugs outside all the time? Or turning tricks?  Or dealing out of their car?

The illegal secondary suites in the area are full of them because  the combination of unscrupulous landlords and a city that turns a blind eye  leads to “prime rental property for those who don’t want to put a name on a rental agreement”.

All the residents here know at least one mega home that is renting to at least one street level addict or dealer or prostitute in their illegal suites.  This area  is known to be a criminal hotspot by the RCMP and the city knows this. The city is counting on the fact that either no one will speak up, and that those that do will not be listened to because they are not powerful business owners with sway.

But those who live here have strong voices, and one of them is Len Freisen.

At 83, this man has been beating the street getting signatures on a petition. He has spoken to the city, the councillors, the churches and anyone else who will listen, and his intent is clear. Stop this ridiculous notion before it even begins.  This story in the Now speaks to the determination and drive men half his age would kill to have:

Councillor Bob Bose is staunchly against the plan, as is Marvin Hunt, but the councillors who are known around city hall to be closest to her are  all for it.

Linda Hepner has even bragged that she has received stacks of letters from social service agencies that are for it. (Sure Linda,but let’s speak honestly about this. It is not because it will make the area better, but because they get funding from the proceeds through gaming grants.)

I would ask that Linda find out why those agencies don’t seem to be able to help all the homeless, addicts and otherwise disadvantaged that are roaming about Newton.

The city will also get a portion of the revenue, as all cities do from the gaming places located in their municipalities.

So, in essence, the city will be making money from the very people they claim to want to help – along with those working in the poverty industry. The agencies count on these funds to provide services to their clients, some of which will be cashing in their nickels in those very slots and end up back in another agency for more help.

What a tragic  circle of events.

If you care about these people, if you care about these residents, if you really want to clean up this area, you will vote no to this proposal. You will find the money to address the issues, and stop inviting developers with their own agenda to town.

Gentrification comes at a cost, but the costs associated with this proposal far outweigh the cosmetic benefit. Speak up and say no now.

25 thoughts on “Surrey ranks in the Top 10 Most Dangerous cities in Canada – so why not add slot machines to one of the poorest neighbourhoods?

  1. Bill

    Way to get that off your chest !!!

    I completely and totally agree. I just read the Leader story and It shows how far out in left field she is.
    She needs to live here for a months to understand why this is a completely unacceptable proposal.

    it is easy to drive by an area and say what it needs, or what should be done, but it is different when you actually are a part of the neigbourhood.

    Good point about talking to some neighbours. I have a couple who all act like gangsters. Not likely to be barbequing with then any time soon.

    Keep at it. People are listening! ( reading)


  2. Angie


    i just wanted to say that I agree with you. My husband and I bought a townhome where we thought it would be nice, in Newton, 4 years ago.
    it is so bad now that he doesn’t like me to go out alone with our kids because there are so many creepy people around. We moved from Vancouver, and it wasn’t like this on the west side where we rented.

    I feel like the mayor has been trying to trick people into thinking Surrey was fixed , when it is not. I know several neighbours who feel the same way.

    I am a normal mom on maternity leave, with our second child, and normally work as a stenographer. Even if I just walk to the Superstore in Newton, I get hassled because the weirdos think I have money because I dress nicely. I’m sick of it, but we cant sell until the prices head back up. And who would buy here anyways?
    We tell everyone we know in Vancouver not to believe any of the developers ads here now. This area will NEVER change.
    Thanks for listening.


  3. Jaspreet

    hey, i totally agree about the rentals here. I know many other brown people who are renting to thes kind of druggies. it helps pay the mortgage and the money goes right into the bank account. you kick them out , and you can get another one right away. Easy cash.

    but you know,. I see what you are saying. This area is as bad as whalley now, like i was just saying to my wife that we should move because i dont want my kids growing up here and seeing all this bad stuff. we go to the park and theres all this bad stuff on the ground like the condoms and the needle stuff. so bad. and now she has the brown people on council so she thinks she gets all the brown votes. well, i know al ot of people at temple who wont be voting for her again. we dont like gambling you know. its not right to bring this here.


  4. ” Not even the inclusion of a community police station will make a difference.”

    These are the proverbial screen door on a submarine. They opened one at Lougheed Mall and all they are is a pr exercise, they hold Block Watch meetings there and make people feel good, but its not a cop shop, its staffed by volunteers and keeps bankers’ hours.
    The drug dealers and hookers operate in the shadow of the place with complete impunity.
    This whole casino plan sounds insane.


    1. Laila

      Dianne Watts, as far as I know, lives in Cloverdale, Mike. But it still leaves her far removed from the realities of Newton, Whalley and the rest of Surrey proper.


  5. Derek

    Good article.

    It’s unbelievable that this proposal is even being considered. It frustrates me every time I drive up the hooker stretch of King George Highway (64 Ave to 72 Ave. If only the Mayor would require police foot patrols on this strip like she is doing with her City Centre.
    She needs to wake up and realize that pouring most of the City’s resources into one area causes decay (through neglect) to other areas that need it more.

    I heard a rumor that Salvation Army bought the old Surrey Public Market recently. Hope this isn’t true because any increase to social services to the area will be the final nail in the coffin for us. Like many former residents of Newton, we will relocate to an area that has a future.

    The damage to Newton will be irreversible.



    1. Laila

      Derek – Have you seen the cities plans for Newton?
      High density housing in the Newton core area…
      “In the fall of 2008, Surrey entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with TransLink to undertake a land use planning, transit and urban design study that will lead to a plan to increase density and create a transit oriented development in the Newton Town Centre, in the area to the south of 72 Avenue east and west of King George Highway.”
      In addition, I’ve been told there are plans to raze the cities rental homes to the east of king george and I am sure the city WILL approve the slots explansion. My information source tells me that they are looking to the gaming company as a potential P3 partner and this is why the gaming co is offering so many incentives.

      Interesting the information about the public market. Convenient that it is so close to the Parole office on the corner opposite….

      The plans are grandiose and not well planned out considering the reality of the neighbourhood. Where does the city plan to send all the low-income residents,the homeless and the addicts? Do they really expect people are just going to keep buying condos and townhomes and not realise what they are moving into?

      I’ll see what I can find out about the public market building Derek.


  6. Derek

    Also interesting that Boardwalk Gaming (the casino proposal) was a major contributor to the Mayor’s party for the election campaign. The Salvation Army has a thrift store in the proposed casino site. I strongly suspect that the relocation of the Salvation Army to the old Surrey Public Market is a condition for part of the casino development approval. The local newspapers should go after this story instead of waiting to be spoon fed by the Mayor and council.
    This will be a done deal long before the public hearing.
    Are there any local newspaper journalists out there that aren’t afraid to question things and do some digging?


    1. Laila

      Dianne Watts was quoted recently as saying that developers and businesses that give her election campaigns don’t get favors from the city when it comes to development applications et al.This was in response to the disclosurein the local newspapers of her election contribution sources and amounts.

      In my opinion, the Now has not been historically very critical of the mayor and I’ve heard it referred to as being her personal PR paper- partly because the Publisher Gary Hollick was, until recently, the president of the Surrey Board of Trade for quite some time. Their job, of course, is to promote business in Surrey and maintain an excellent rapport with City Hall. So for the longest time you really wouldn’t read anything regarding her and her repeated manhandling of various neighbourhoods and issues within Surrey.

      Since the new editor Beau Simpson has joined them, I have seen far more coverage of “real” Surrey issues, as well as read some wonderful editorials regarding her actions or lack of them. Kudo’s to him, but I still think that The Leader has far more objective coverage of City Hall and the Mayor. Perhaps you should give their newsroom a call Derek, because there are a series of great stories here to be told. Perhaps that writer should also talk to the RCMP and get their real stance on the status of Newton, rather than the PR spin the mayor expects them to spout.


  7. Melanie

    Laila, your blog really opened my eyes to the problems that Surrey residents are facing. I drive King George Highway 4 times per day to and from Sullivan Station area and I am more and more horrified with the state of the neighbourhood from 64th all the way to the King George skytrain and beyond.
    I feel like I need to get more involved in decision-making and have tried repeatedly to get in touch with Jagrup Brar (the Surrey/Panorama Ridge MLA), but to no avail. Messages are not returned and emails are not responded to.
    I came upon your blog after Googling (King George Highway Hooker Problem) to see if there was anyone trying to do something about the crime, prostitution and theft in the area.
    I’ll keep up with your writing and am open to attending meetings and speaking up if voices are lacking. There is no reason why hardworking individuals should have to live, work and raise families in neighbourhoods that are not safe to walk or drive through. I am disgusted by the number of cars that turn onto 68th or 69th where the Thrift store is. Considering there is nothing down that road but a boarded up building, I often think I should start a website taking photos of these “johns” who keep the hookers in business and post them all over the internet, but I would probably be the one who ends up in jail.


    1. Laila

      Melanie – thank you.

      Sometimes I think it’s all for nothing, and then I get a comment like yours! I’m glad to know that people who live in other areas of Surrey can see how horrid it is along this area as well.
      Jagrup Brar’s office, funny enough, is in the same building as the local parole office… and just down the block from the homeless shelter that really became the beginning of the end, in my opinion, of this neighbourhood. And if Jagrup had really been so concerned with the way the area is, one would think he would have taken it upon himself to handle it while he was still the MLA for that area, and now he is running for another area- Surrey-Tynehead I believe.

      No, Melanie, nothing will be done because, to be quite blunt, the mayor and council don’t live, work, or play in this area, and so the priority to handle the crux of the problem is very low for them, other than to address the occasional PR disaster. They have plans for the Newton town core that resemble what has been tried in Whalley to no avail. The mall where SFU is centred is losing businesses, and has always been a dicey one to get in and out of, being located at Surrey Central.

      Unfortunately, the next wave of crime is on its way, should the welcome home residence and the slots get into Newton. Add in that the Salvation Army is trying to purchase the lot at 64th and King George for some sort of housing/shelter, and well… you get the picture. DTES all over again with a ridiculously high concentration of social agencies that, for all their efforts, have been able to do nothing to stop this onslaught.

      I urge you to call council and the mayor and voice your concerns and issues directly, and in person if possible. Ask them how their rejuvenation plan is working at getting rid of the scum and crime NOW, and not in 10 years. Ask them how the high density housing is going to fit in with all the addicts and criminals wandering about.

      Just ask them. I’ve invited them all to walk the area with me, off camera and off the record, to no avail, or response, just to really experience what I, and others, experience in our daily encounters. I guess they just really don’t care, as long as it’s not where they have to do business. Most live in South Surrey, the mayor is in Cloverdale.


  8. notamused

    Diane Watts, who invited George Bush to speak at one of her “summits” has the intellectual capacity of Susan Anton and is the political twin of Christy Clark. I’ve heard her interviewed on CBC and she is the most vacuous, least thoughtful person I have ever heard. It’s a wonder her handlers let her speak on her own. And to think this idiot was recommended to run for Premier of BC.


    1. Laila

      yes the province weighed in on this too…. which Agent K linked to in that post, From the tech section…

      I find it quite interesting, considering all the attention being given to the PG brewerys donations and their reward – we all know donations can and do influence politicians which is why corporations and people make them. They stand to benefit.

      Even more appalling is that after keeping slots out of the Newton Bingo Hall for so long after the public outcry against it, where council and mayor agreed it was not a good idea… that they went ahead and allowed it anyways, smack dab in one of the most poverty ridden areas of Newton, right behind a BC Housing complex – for the next 18 months, or less if the South Surrey Casino goes ahead. There is a much bigger story here than even the very well done one by the province. Lots of promises being made all over the place on this one.


  9. Curt

    Off topic, but driving the area, the clearcuts and development on ALR land in Surrey is so out of control, it’s disgusting. Mega homes, “single family homes” (how many rooms can you squeeze into a double garage?) Seeing more and more of these. And now this? Well Diane and Co., why have my taxes gone up yet again wih all this “development”, and the services, garbage, scaled back, but I’m still paying full price, transit has not improved, traffic gets worse and worse, city streets in terrible shape, potholes, etc.
    And another “Panorama Ridge” I’ll call it the 3rd, proposed for the area 176/32-24th. Cut er down, squeeze in so much you can hear your neighbor pee. And Diane isn’t that you’re property right in the thick of things of what you now want to develop? What’s with the parked cars and tow trucks I’ve been seeing? Is this zoned for that use? And now the following:

    No casino, we’ll build an incinerator instead. Sheesh. Disgusted again by the politicians at city hall.


  10. Kellen

    I live on THE most dangerous street in surrey (you know the street I’m talking about; right next to the Mac’s on 132nd), so far there’s been [drum roll]…… 5 murders, hundreds of daily drug deals[possibly 200-300, right in front of small children], 1 drug/crack house bust, all of this despite the fact that police drive down this block so frequent you’d think there’s a fucking RCMP parade!


  11. Pingback: Not such a safe neighbourhood after all | Kristy Basran's Blog

  12. Aman

    Closed circuit CCTV cameras and high end SUVs parked in the driveway have nothing to do with criminals. It’s a safety precaution so you can feel safe where you sleep. It may be true for a minute percentage of drug dealers but it can be overlooked easily. You live in surrey you’re bound to see both sides of the coin. The extremely poor and the filthy rich BUT not necessarily through criminal activities.


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  14. Dunamis

    This thread is quite old, but I was wondering if anyone can give me an honest opinion about buying the new developments around 62nd Avenue and 138th Street. Is this area a good area to raise a family? Thanks in advance.


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