RCMP take lumps along with praise at community meeting – Newton residents look forward to next step.

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 newtoncommunityassociation@gmail.com

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.

21 thoughts on “RCMP take lumps along with praise at community meeting – Newton residents look forward to next step.

  1. I enjoyed reading that some people still know when to say enough is enough, it is inexcusable for streets to become the domain of criminals. Long before that happens policing has already failed, and every community must insure that police keep streets safe as their highest priority.

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    1. Laila

      I think all of this is a reminder for every person, in every community to be actively involved and aware of what is going on. Don’t just sit back and let it happen. Join bock watch, create your own, call the police for every crime you see. I’m guilty of not doing that myself at times,although I normally do.

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    1. Laila

      Thank you. I’ve been a harsh critic of the mayor and council over the years,over various policies in the city, some of which play into this situation. But to fix what is wrong in Newton takes putting aside politics for a moment. Doesn’t mean not criticizing and disagreeing, it means doing the right thing and not passing the buck to someone else.

      A good read tonight by the Surrey Now editor Beau Simpson,who addresses the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about.http://www.thenownewspaper.com/column-as-adversity-exhausts-our-city-pride-continues-to-elude-us-in-surrey-1.782474?utm_source=hootsuite&utm_campaign=hootsuite

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  2. Mike

    Thank you for the recap Laila,
    This tragedy has been gut wrenching for everybody that calls Surrey Home.
    To all the people who showed up for this meeting, thank you.
    I would encourage everyone to get involved and stay involved with your Newton Community Association. Every comment, idea or suggestion is valuable and appreciated. Too often we all sit on our hands when we know we should stand up, speak out and listen to each other.
    If we can get past the rage and anger over Julie’s senseless death, we will prevail.
    The RCMP will not quit on us and they will not back up in the face of a challenge.
    Our Mayor and council must find their footing and I am confident that they will. Business needs to be done differently at City Hall. Surrey’s explosive growth is not an excuse to leave neighborhoods behind and citizens at risk.

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    1. Laila

      I might not have the power a politician has, but I can write, and write I will.

      I know the Newton Comm. Association committee was terribly proud of the people who showed up, how they acted, how passionate and creative they were in the solutions they presented. There is no contribution too small, and that is so important to remember. It’s your neighbourhood, after all.

      Making the choice to stand up and get involved is the hardest part.

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  3. Curt

    Agree with Mike and I’ve said it previously, the growth in Surrey has grown far too quickly. The infrastructure, services, police etc. have not kept up. It is time to rethink this growth and return to the established neighborhoods and make them safe, liveable areas again. You can’t keep building new, and leave neighborhoods falling into disrepair because of a supposed lack of funding to upkeep services, buildings, schools, healthcare. It appears money is going elsewhere – new neighborhoods, new roads to these neighborhoods, but the old neighbourhoods are left to fall apart. This should never happen. It’s time Watts and Co. pull in the reins on development until other areas of Surrey, old neighborhoods, are looked after again.

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  4. Mosko

    The police can only do so much – the courts have to do theirs. We have enough police – the problem is they continually have to deal with the same people because judges seem to think it’s their job to be social engineers and keep releasing criminals back into the community. And why does it take 3 years to get people before a judge?

    Police are also, because of The Charter, swamped in paper work, not policing. Not sure how we get around that.

    Also, while the mayor and council have some blame, the provincial government was responsible back in 2001 for cutting social services to balance the budget and eliminating the requirement to register recovery houses.

    The “broken window” theory (similar to Delta’s “no call too small” ) also should also be implemented. Unfortunately Surrey lets too many things like graffiti to proliferate. One company in Guildford supports a tagging crew that operates throughout the city with impunity and plasters their stickers everywhere.

    The amount of dumped trash in places around the city, derelict buildings and open air dealing should also be a priority.

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    1. Laila

      Agreed all good points. Hunt is a councillor and an MLA. His appearance at the next public meeting is important. From what I saw at the last meeting, the public will have a lot of questions for every politician there.

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  5. mike

    Thanks for all your work i think it would be good to see how much taxes (property and business) woulsd have to be raised to bring more officers to Surrey. Also one fellow at the meeting brought up that he volunteered in Delta instead of surrey i talked to a ex auxiliary member from Richmond and he was saying that if you want a career in law enforcement it is better not to volunteer with RCMP as it cannot be a step to a job

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    1. Laila

      The link I posted above addresses that. If we really are 45 officers behind, we stand to fall further and further behind as the city grows. The editor brings up some good points.There has to be a balance.

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  6. e.a. f.

    if transit has a police force, why don’t the deploy more officers to areas such as the bus loop? Like would it take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. Perhaps the mayor could give the head of translink a call and explain people get killed in surrey and they’d like a hand trying to stop it.

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  7. The Unclothed Empress

    Great work on this issue. There’s a crowd that somehow has been completely ignored, yet has a lot to answer for…Translink Cops. The Newton Exchange was a disaster before that agency was created and has not improved one iota since their creation. The last thing those double-dipping retired cops want to do is actual work in their mandate. Where’s the MSM INTERVIEWING Anne Drebbin on this one? ….speaking of double-dippers.

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    1. Laila

      Thank you for the kind words, really the credit goes to Liz, Cindy, Doug and the rest of the Newton crew. If I recall correctly,we were told at the meeting that transit police do not patrol bus loops, that would be transit security. Quite frankly I would personally be happy if either one did, I don’t care which ones, but there is so much crap that goes down at that busloop,it’s phenomenal.

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  8. John S

    I was told by bus drivers that Transit Police do not come on buses or bus loops. The bus drivers said that Transit Security do the buses and bus loops and that Transit Security can now issue fines and make arrests. The bus drivers I talked to said they would rather have Transit Security anyways because they dedicate their time to Transit and don’t make traffic stops that having nothing to do with Transit.

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    1. Laila

      Although I have seen transit security recently at the loop, it has been a rarity in the past and dealers etc know it – unrelated, but I still question why they drive Dodge Chargers? Seriously?

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      1. John S

        What’s wrong with a Dodge Charger? I’m guessing they drive them because they work best for the type of work they do. Needs room for the laptop computer and other stuff they use. They probably got a deal buying them in bulk I would guess. The Vancouver police are now getting Dodge Chargers, so they can’t be that bad.

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        1. Laila

          Could be. But I have never seen a Translink security officer doing his or her job in the car, only out of it…if the Translink police don’t even drive them, why does security need to?

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  9. In 2012 the BC Liberals had SENTIS do a prepare a Report on Crime.

    Looks like the research data is out of date, they failed to help Surrey.

    page 17 and 18 of 33

    PERCEIVED SAFETY WHEN ALONE British Columbians generally feel safe in their neighbourhood when walking alone in the dark, and even more so when they are home alone in the evening. Specifically, three – quarters (77%) of residents feel safe walking alone in the dark in their neighbourhood. Those who are more likely to feel unsafe about walking alone include:
    Women (30 % vs. 1 0 %) Urban residents (22% vs. 9%) Victims of crime (26 % vs. 19%)

    Reporters of crime (27 % vs. 18%) Those with household incomes less than $30,000 (27%) and between $30,000 and $59,999 (23%) compared to those with household incomes of $ 60 ,000 or more (14 %)

    Page 23 of 33
    Reasons For Not Reporting Incidents to Police — Too Many

    Like

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