My heart stopped at news today that a woman had been severely beaten in what appears to be an attempted robbery outside of the Newton Arena. http://www.thenownewspaper.com/woman-not-expected-to-live-after-savage-beating-near-surrey-s-newton-arena-1.774064?utm_source=hootsuite&utm_campaign=hootsuite
Foremost, my thoughts and prayers are with her, her family and her friends – this was a senseless crime that in my opinion, should never have occurred. While Surrey residents who do not live in Newton are passing this off as a random incident that could happen anywhere, both longtime residents and businesses in the area are outraged – but sadly none of us are surprised.
Both the RCMP and the city of Surrey have long been aware of the growing issues in Newton, which has suffered greatly as a direct result of the ongoing gentrification of Whalley and the northern portions of King George Boulevard, ( known as City Centre in recent years).
In news clips and reports today, both the Mayor and councillor Hepner declined to talk about the issues in Newton, saying it was a conversation for another day. With respect to them, and to the victim – it’s not. It is a conversation that must be had today and for very good reason – preventing further crimes in this high risk area.
It was June 2008 when after reaching a level of concern over the degradation of what was then my neighbourhood of Newton, I called CBC news to see if they would be interested in doing a story about the situation. After touring around in a van with Susana da Silva and her cameraman, the city was contacted for a response and was told by Mayor Watts that Newton had not been forgotten and that it was in fact, Newtons turn to be the focus.
The Newton Plan was unveiled at the June 16th council meeting and within a few short weeks following the story it was endorsed by council. A mural was painted on the Newton Rec centre building, planters were placed along 72nd avenue and well, we got some funky decorations for Christmas glamour. http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/1337.aspx
Time passed – years in fact – and nothing else came to fruition. Back in 2008/2009 there were meetings – I attended a few that went no where – and that is where the Newton Plan ended.
The bus loop was never moved, and although it was recently redone, the lighting is terrible and it’s not a place you want to wait for a bus for alone after dark. Sometime, waiting alone during the day is bad enough. Crime continued to escalate in the Newton core and surrounding areas, reported to Block Watch captains, but rarely to the public.
I’ve been in receipt of many emails from the community policing contact in Newton and have shared the concern of the lack of reports to the public in different situations. A couple of years ago there were ongoing assaults and robberies in the Unwin Park area, yet the public wasn’t warned until many had happened. Same thing with the jewellery heists that were happening early this year- it wasn’t until a few occurred that RCMP warned the public.
I’ve written far too many times about the issues of Newton, the lack of security, the changes that could and should be made. The ice rink, the rec centre, the bank and the mall are all located around a treed area that while lovely to look at, is without a doubt welcome cover for criminals and drug related activity. The volunteer youth patrols do nothing to deter the drug and criminal activity. And the RCMP? Are quite simply too overwhelmed to really make a dent. With nearly 1000 people moving to the city every month,it is logistically impossible to maintain the standard of policing, even if the city does add 12 more officers.
Ironically, in 2012, the city started the Central Newton Cultural Commercial District Plan in a mainly industrial area of west Newton http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/12125.aspx, which looks wonderful,grand and visionary… but once again leaves Newton Town Centre out in the cold! Why?
This latest tragedy strikes close to home for many today. The victim is a mom, who was just going about her business being a mother and part of her community. It could have been anyone who uses the facilities. It could have been me, or your loved one. As contact and fellow Newton activist Jude Hannah told the Now today:
“We have been calling on the city to take action and this is absolutely the worst nightmare. And I feel so upset, I feel so angry, I’m so disappointed… This was what we feared would happen, and we warned them.”
The building that houses the ice rink, also houses a city operated pre-school, with a fenced in area where the children play out back – along side a deserted road where criminal activity happens constantly. Parents come and go to drop off their children, in the midst of the epicenter of Newton town core.
And while we all share our prayers for todays victim, let us not forget the first, December 16th victim, and extend our prayers and healing to them as well. We know nothing about the first victim – no details are available. Why is that? Should the first victim be any less deserving of our outrage? My thoughts are with them today, as well. ( update: this Province story tells us she was a woman in her twenties who got off the bus at Newton Exchange and was assaulted, suffered some injuries and went to hospital. She was later released )
No one can say what would have happened had the RCMP reported that first assault ( which is reported to have shared similarities to this one, which makes me wonder how badly that victim was hurt) but I firmly believe a forewarned public is a forearmed one.
Newton isn’t just an un-fulfilled plan sitting in a file in cabinet at city hall, it’s a community of working families and businesses who were promised in 2008 that it was their turn to be the focus. They’ve been waiting ever since and they deserve better. They deserve to be safe when they take the bus to work or school. They deserve to be safe in their own workplaces, and they deserve to be safe in their homes and places of recreation.
The transformation of Whalley into Central City and Innovation Boulevard are certainly visionary ideas on the part of the city…and have been lauded as such by the city and unknowing media who can’t or haven’t seen the entire picture. But how visionary is it to simply move one communities problems ( Whalley) into another (Newton) a few kilometers away? It’s not.
**** are you a Newton resident? To get involved in taking back your community, email firstname.lastname@example.org *****