I apologize for the lateness of this post – it’s been a hectic week with back to school, followed by immediate return of stomach flu as a result. I still haven’t posted my weekly 24Hrs column here yet – which was published Monday – and I’m not nearly caught up on emails.I’m hoping this quick post will answer a lot of questions many are asking about the meeting, how to get in touch with the association and what comes next.
Many have been asking for my thoughts on the meeting and why I wasn’t tweeting or live blogging it.
First of all, I wasn’t there as media, I was there as a resident. ( I’ve received some flack for being in the room from those who don’t know I live in Surrey) Many long time readers know that for many years I lived very close to Unwin Park which is a couple of blocks from the bus loop. After a series of shootings happened right around the corner from my old house, a move to another area of Newton further from the town core was in order, but the Newton core is still very much a place I’m in frequently. My youngest attended pre-school last year at the Newton rec centre, in the arena building outside of which Julie Paskall was killed.
Every morning I would bus into the Newton bus loop, drop him off, head over to Safeway Starbucks to grab a coffee, then head over the Newton Library to work for a couple of hours until it was time to pick him up and head back home. The Dollarama is there, Greco’s deli, Lucky Horse restaurant, among a variety of other great businesses. For all the problems of the town centre and surrounding areas, it’s full of hidden gems that don’t get to shine like they should because of those issues.
Since I’ve been helping the Newton Community Association with their press releases, there has to be a bit of a separation there. You can’t live in a community for years and not have an attachment to it,despite its issues.
Now for my personal thoughts on the meeting.
I’ve been very critical of Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy’s statements to the press in the past regarding public safety, and it will likely not be the last time that occurs. His public relations comments on gang activity not impacting the safety of regular law abiding citizens was brought up by one Surrey resident to applause from the audience. But I have to say this. He took some harsh lumps on issues relating to policing in the city firmly on the chin, and made no attempt to spin, deflect or otherwise. No excuses were given, just an apology and comment that it was unacceptable, in instances where policing failures had been made.
It was also clear that residents have a clear appreciation and respect for the officers working the streets- something that was voiced several times. They know the officers work hard, that they are inundated with nearly nonstop calls and residents appreciate the work they do in the community-they just want more of them.
Newton residents brought up so many great ideas, many of which would be relatively low cost to initiate, others with more planning but still excellent ideas. Kevin Diakiw of The Leader seemed to have snuck into the room and has an excellent report, so I won’t rehash it here. http://www.surreyleader.com/news/239139271.html What I will say is everyone was so proud of the residents who showed up, who shared stories, who cried tears and brought excellent, excellent solutions forward. Newton is far more than the crimes and social issues even I have reported on, Newton is every person that showed up, and I guess that’s really why I’ve been so angry over the years at nothing being done. They deserve more. We all do.
One of the items brought up at the meeting and one Liz has been talking about for years – is an online reporting form for Surrey residents to report petty crimes such as thefts. I hope to see the RCMP implement this soon.
After the meeting, I did a walkabout with the mayors executive assistant, Judy Mann,from the seniors centre, to the bus loop, at nearly 10pm at night, and her teenage daughter accompanied us. We didn’t take security nor RCMP, but went on our own, as women walking in pairs for safety would do. It didn’t take Judy long to understand why residents feel unsafe in the area, particularly after dark, and what issues transit and rec centre users experience commuting and walking in the area.
We noted very dim lighting, a light out, lack of lighting and ample places to conduct criminal activity on or around city property. Those issues and the accompanying photos she took, were passed on immediately to staff in charge for review and/or action. The light was immediately replaced and an electrical problem with the light standard was being investigated.
City facilities must be safe facilities, because so many families, singles and seniors use them – the city could find itself in a position of liability if things like lights are not changed quickly. Translink could find itself in the same position for not providing adequate security for the bus loop, or allowing clearly criminal activity to continue without regard to public safety. The RCMP are now well aware of several issues they need to address.
Now that everyone is at the table, it’s important for everyone to keep the focus and pressure on until solutions are enacted – not merely promised. Every level of government must work cohesively with resident support and participation. There is, without a doubt, a lot to fix : immediate safety issues like security, policing,lighting, landscaping changes, and longer term solutions for a plethora of social issues.
Newton is a huge area within Surrey that includes both Panorama ridge, Sullivan and Strawberry Hill – a lot of people don’t realize that. While Newton town centre ( which is a very small area) has received the bulk and focus of attention, the issues discussed at the meeting extend far beyond that.Residents from all areas of Newton attended, each concerned about what they could do in their particular neighbourhood and its important for each of you to get involved.
I have received a lot of emails and contacts from people who attended the meeting trying to find the Newton Community Association online somewhere.
Quite honestly, the group was still in its formative stages when this tragedy occurred and found itself thrust into the public eye far sooner that anticipated – they are working on a facebook page and a website right now, in addition to working hard on phone calls, meetings etc to get ready for the next public meeting that takes place in February. They work, they have families, and they all live in some part of Newton.
The committee is a super group of people, many of whom I have known for years like Liz Walker and Cindy Law. Most of them have been in one group or another for some time before this new effort was started. Honestly Liz Walker deserves a superwoman’s cape for all the years of work she has done in Newton, as does Cindy, but every committee member is dedicated to a safe,livable community for all of Newton.
To get in touch with the Newton Community Association, or to become a member, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
There is also a twitter handle now too, no guarantees how often it will be tweeting, likely only major updates for now, while there is a lot of work going on : https://twitter.com/NewtonResidents
All Newton residents are invited to join the association, and there are other associations cropping up within Newton as well, in addition to many across the city. ( I couldn’t find a current list of community associations for the city at the time of posting, but this is a good start http://www.surreyasc.com/members.htm)
One thing is clear. Newton residents have finally found their voice…In hindsight, it was more like a roar.
***In addition: it is very clear that only by adopting the Delta police standard of “No call too small”, will residents accurately reflect the real picture of crime in our city RCMP stats.RCMP stats are used to facilitate and justify funding for many resources including policing. The RCMP are aware that timely waits are happening and that at times, callers who report crime often, have on occasion, been told they are a nuisance ( this actually happened to a neighbor of mine as well, who called me the next day). That was addressed at the meeting, but it was made clear that those calls of thefts,vandalism etc must be made.
Newton(and all of Surrey) residents, please call and report crime when you see it happening: 911 for emergencies and 604-599-0502 for non-emergencies. Hearing impaired line is 604-599-7602.
It’s important to remember that Julie Paskalls killer is still out there. Somebody knows something. Even if you think you might have seen something, but think its not important, it might be. You can be anonymous by calling Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or their website http://www.solvecrime.ca/
One thing is clear. Newton residents have finally found their voice…
In hindsight, it was more like a roar.