“We don’t need more task forces, we need results” -Esmir Milavic

Strong words from Community Relations Strategist at @Surrey604, Esmir Milavic, on how to address the issue of violence and safety in Newton, as the community copes with the tragic death of Julie Paskall.

I agree with Esmir completely. And this is why.

                                        What happened to the Newton Town Centre Plan?

As I detailed in my prior post, the city of Surrey promised it was Newtons turn for rehabilitation and rejuvenation back in 2008, with sweeping changes to combat crime and rejuvenate the area: http://www.canada.com/surreynow/news/story.html?id=8a34dcda-bc8b-491e-91e2-5cc8c88b9a67 .

In fact, the Surrey First Slate even campaigned on a safe streets philosophy in the last election, committing to a new District Police station being built near the Newton Transit Exchange : http://surreyfirst.ca/issues/


Sadly, very little of any of those plans came to fruition, because the core changes that plan was based on, hinged on a promise made to the city of Surrey by the former owners of the Newton Bingo Hall, Boardwalk Gaming.  That promise was not required to be fulfilled when the new owners took possession of the assets and left the city exposed in a manner they did not anticipate :

“After winning approval for a mini-casino in Newton, Boardwalk Gaming has sold the property to another company, leaving Surrey council angered about failed promises for the property.

In 2009, Boardwalk promised a $25-million investment that would see a revitalized mall and community policing station at 7093 King George Blvd. in exchange for a lucrative zoning change that would allow slot machines at Newton Bingo Country. The rezoning was in violation of Surrey’s existing gaming policy, but it passed on a five-to-four vote.”

Let’s not talk about the fact the city broke its own policy to get some freebies.

The facts remain, the Newton bus loop didn’t move to King George,there was no new Newton District Police station…and the city was left holding the bag for making promises they actually had no intention of keeping on their own dime. http://www.surreyleader.com/news/129840228.html

And for the next 5 years, Newton continued a downward spiral, becoming ever more the new Whalley with every dollar invested in Central City. Surrey did become host to the new billion dollar RCMP headquarters – never mind that no city in BC wants to pay for it -even though it could potentially cost the city of Surrey nearly a million dollars in extra payments every year, to cover administration costs. ( you tell me where that money is coming from… ) http://blueline.ca/articles/bc_and_cities_balk_at_paying_higher_policing_costs

What do we know?

We know that doing what the city has been doing for years in Newton – which is increasing police presence only in reaction to incidents, not proactively – isn’t working.

We know that the while the city has invested heavily in many other areas of the city, no effort was made to rework the Newton Town Centre plan once the promises of Boardwalk Gaming were no longer a reality.

We know that in fact, the city  instead went ahead with preliminary concept plans for another area of Newton far less in need than Newton Town Centre.

We know that despite Translinks quick rehabilitation of the Newton Bus Exchange to accommodate our new B Line, the energy-efficient lighting is considered by most transit users, to be completely inadequate at night. The amount of light given is weak in comparison to traditional lighting.

We know that the lighting in the parking lot and surrounding the Newton Rec Centre and Arena is completely inadequate, and in combination with several heavily treed areas, provide ample cover for criminal activity of all kinds.

We also know that Newton is a hub for social service agencies, corrections offices,bars,numerous beer and wine stores and the Bingo Hall with slots. Addiction, poverty and drugs are huge issues.

We know that the budget the city of Surrey has presented for this year, allows for 12 new police officers for the entire city. Hardly enough to keep pace with nearly 1,000 new residents every month.

We know that even by the RCMP’s own assertions, that the crime stats reported, may not match the actual amount of criminal activity in an area. Here is why, from the Surrey RCMP’s own site http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=103&languageId=1&contentId=32591  :

“It is important to keep in mind that reported crime does not always correlate with actual crime. While some crimes are never detected, of those that are, not all are brought to the attention of the police. For various reasons, some crime types are more likely to be reported (or detected) than others. Information on consensual or what some might term ‘victimless’ crime (i.e., drug use, prostitution, gambling) will likely not be reported, and detection by police will require significant investments of time and energy.”

They go on further to state:

The data presented here may vary from previously produced reports and numbers may continue to change on a daily basis due to the dynamic nature of offences being reported, investigated and/or cleared. Further, Statistics Canada redefines criminal offence codes on an ongoing basis, which may result in changes to how crimes are recorded within PRIME.


Caution should always be taken when comparing crime data extracted at different times or by different agencies using different data sources and/or methodologies.

This explains  completely why the perception of crime is often higher than the crime stats the city relies on. How many people report drug deals going down? Prostitutes? An addict shooting up? If I called the police every time I saw a drug deal go down, I would be dialing all day.

Crime is not just perceived to be higher than the stats show… it is higher.

Many people don’t even report minor break-ins anymore because the RCMP in Surrey do not have time to respond to every call, and no one wants their house or car insurance to go up due to repeat claims.  This is the reality of Newton town centre residents, among other neighbourhoods including my own in the southern part of Newton.

Sadly, we also know that what isn’t working in Newton, all played as contributing factors to the death of Julie Paskall, because the city was well aware of every single point I make here. Newton residents have been calling for help for years, but not one level of government has been listening.

Where do we go from here?

I didn’t know Julie Paskall, had never met her and as much as I would like to, I can’t bring her back. No one can. But I feel a tremendous personal responsibility as a long time Newton writer who has extensively covered the issues of not only Newton, but all of Surrey, that I too, contributed to this situation. I should have written more, put more pressure on local governments, not let up. I know this damn area she was in, went in and out of that building twice a day for over 6 months.

I knew how bad it was.

The city knew how bad it was.

So did the RCMP right across the damn street.

Esmir is right when he says that we don’t need more task forces, we need results. ‘Fordy’s 40’ is a joke and the punch line is Surrey.  We don’t need more committee’s, we don’t need more consultation – there are years of documentation/consultation for the city to look to – the people of Newton have been crying out for help for so long they don’t remember what hope looks like anymore.

There are things the city can do immediately to improve public safety in the area- lets forget about beautification efforts right now. On New Years Eve, I spoke with Simi Sara on her show, and said the city needed to improve lighting immediately around the entire Newton Rec Centre  and either remove or light up the grove of trees that provide cover for criminal activity between the city facilities, Coast Capital Credit Union, and the mall. They  need to limit access/flee points to the arena and rec. centre – there are so many places and points criminal activity flourishes and is hidden.

Councillor Barinder Rasode has been interviewed since and agrees the city has not done all that it could for Newton, and needs to do more. http://soundcloud.com/shane-woodford/interview-surrey-councillor

Translink needs to install brighter lighting immediately at the bus loop – the high efficiency lighting is simply not bright enough for the area. Assign a team of two or four ‘beat cops’ on foot or mountain bike to the town centre permanently. Highly visible, known to all merchants, and city staff. Quick to action, anytime.

These are immediate fixes that will improve public safety right away. In conjunction, the city needs to reprioritize it’s goals, and look at the load of the officers of the Newton Detachment.

They are overwhelmed many times, and that comes from a friend who is an officer in the Surrey RCMP. God help us if flu strikes the force with any ferocity. Even 12 new officers spread over the entire city won’t make a dent in what the city is dealing with in terms of calls. The RCMP also need to ensure that in all cases of any serious assault or robbery, they err on safety and let the public know – Knowledge is not only power, it’s safety.

 I would like to see the city make an immediate commitment to investment in the town centre in some manner. Re-prioritize public infrastructure investments or utilize the Capital Legacy Reserve Fund as a resource for investment.

With businesses leaving,and national coverage of this heinous crime, no one is going to invest in Newton Town Centre unless the city uses some of that “visionary planning” to initiate it. And this time, not via a deal to approve slot machines in one of the most at risk neighbourhoods, in exchange for a new police station etc. Slots have no place in Newton.

It’s not a cure, but it is a start. Newton is broken and the city needs to pick up where they left off in 2009.  A woman died because someone felt confidant enough that no one would see them rob her. And apparently, no one did. She had children, she was loved,  she had dreams…and I am willing to bet she gave far more than she ever asked for.

Residents of Newton must reach within, conquer fear and stand together against violence and city neglect. Alone you are drops, together you create a tsunami capable of toppling walls.

****Surrey RCMP offers the following reminders to residents:

If you are walking alone:

  • Be Aware- Know your surroundings and remove your headphones.
  • Trust Your Instincts-If something does not feel right, remove yourself from the situation.
  • Walk with Confidence-Keep your head up and know where you are going.
  • Only Essentials-Carry only the necessary identification, money, or cards that you need.
  • Keep in Touch-Bring your cell phone so you can make emergency calls.
  • Stay Visible-Stay in well-lit areas and don’t wear dark clothes at night.
  • Keys Ready-Have your car or house keys ready before you reach the door.

Minimize your risk:

  • Don’t carry large bags or purses
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash
  • Don’t carry important documents like a passport or birth certificate
  • Don’t make your valuables visible

If you are approached: If you are approached and verbally threatened or physically assaulted you can avoid further confrontation, by giving the perpetrator all the property they want. Do not fight back. Never engage in an altercation as it increases your chance of getting physically harmed. Although it is not essential, try to observe the perpetrator’s shoes, clothing, or visible markings like scars, tattoos or piercings to help the police in later identifying the suspect. When the robbery has ended and the perpetrator has left, call 911 to report the crime.
IHIT is asking anyone with information or who was in the area of the Newton Arena, Newton bus loop and the Newton Wave pool, between 7:00-11:00 p.m., on December 29 and may have seen any suspicious activities, persons, or vehicle to please call the IHIT Tip line at 1-877-551-4448 by email at ihittipline@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

If you wish to remain anonymous you can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or leave a tip on their website at Solvecrime.ca