The news yesterday out of Surrey BC was no surprise to anyone who lives here, or to the many people who are now following politics in the city : Surrey is once again, home to the most violent crimes in the region.
More concerning to many Surrey residents last night, was that the Surrey RCMP second quarter stats have yet to be released:
The news of the city’s ranking comes as the Surrey RCMP struggles to produce its own second-quarter crime statistics from 2014.It’s been a month since the second quarter was complete, yet Mounties are still working to produce the figures.
Initially, the RCMP said they were working to get an “apples-to-apples” comparison for the media, then that the numbers were being “reconciled.“Now, the Surrey RCMP is dealing with computer issues preventing them from uploading the information on the website.
It’s anticipated the second-quarter figures will be released on Thursday at about noon.
Transparency with respect to policing matters and crime stats has been an ongoing issue in the city for years.
After discovering the Police Committee minutes were missing from the city of Surrey’s site earlier this year and that many committee meetings were being held completely closed, instead of only closing for confidential or sensitive matters, I objected strongly in the press.
The result? While committee minutes for 2014 were posted, to this date of this post. the police committee minutes for 2013, 2012 and 2011 are still not posted for the public to see. No answers have been given as to why this is.
I’ve also made a public call and have discussed extensively online with local Surrey residents and activists, for the RCMP to include the incidents of confirmed Shots fired among the crime stats released to the public every quarter.
In my opinion, doing so would assist in giving the public a greater look at what is going on in the city with respect to violent activity,and possibly elicit greater community involvement in anti-crime and anti-violence initiatives.
For example, Vancouver Police do release those stats publicly, and use them to see if the strategies they have implemented to reduce violent crime are working.
In Speaking with Cst. Brian Montegue, media relations officer for the VPD, he clarified these stats are strictly shots fired incidents and that ‘stats are gathered based on the most serious offence. So if a person is shot and killed, the incident is recorded as a homicide and would not be included in the shots fired numbers’. These are strictly incidents of shots fired that were confirmed founded.
I also asked why the VPD shares those particular stats with the public and Cst. Montegue had this to say:
“While there are obviously many sensitive issues that we are unable to share, we do want to be as transparent as possible.
The residents of Vancouver should be able to see what type of crime is happening in the city and neighbourhood they live in and if the crime rate is rising or falling. The public should be able to see if the strategies employed by their police department are working or not. “
After deciding to submit an Access to Information request to the RCMP for this information ( which by the way, costs $5 just to submit) it was suggested to me by a colleague to check the previously releases in case someone already had.
In fact, someone had already requested this same information in 2013.
I searched to see if a story was done using these stats, but was unable to locate one-that wouldn’t mean one doesn’t exist.
What was released were the numbers for founded shots fired calls from 2007 to 2012, as below.
The graph below that is not from the RCMP, but created using their total years stats.
I contacted the Surrey RCMP media office yesterday morning after speaking with the Ottawa office that released the info, for clarification on how they compile these statistics.
I wanted to know whether or not they include more serious crimes or stand alone, and to ask why they are not included in the crime stats released quarterly to the public.
As of the time of this posting, I have not received a return call. I also wanted to know whether or not they would provide me with the 2013 /2014 stats voluntarily. No reply.
Regardless if these confirmed shots fired resulted in greater crimes of homicide, injury or not, the numbers are telling and indicate that gun related activity on this particular standard, is not actually an anomaly in the city on a year to year basis.
From a low of 28 in 2007 to a high of 61 in 2008, the number averages out to 46.3 incidents of founded shots fired calls to 911 every year, between 2007 and 2012.
2013 and 2014 founded shots fired stats have not yet been released by Access to Information although a request has been made.
While the city of Surrey and the RCMP are both quick to point out “anomalies” of violent crime years like 2013, it is also important to remember that Stats Canada’s most recent statistics show that crime is trending downward on a national level.
On that point,it’s worthy of examination if Surrey really is doing something unique with regards to crime reduction, or simply keeping to the national trend.
Clearly the incidents of gunfire in the city are concerning, in particular as in recent months they have again been particularly brazen, some occurring in daytime hours in busy family neighbourhoods. And clearly as these stats show,are ongoing.
One thing remains clear from discussion online with other local residents and community advocates today.
We just want the entire picture. We don’t need anything done to the stats, they are, what they are.
We don’t want reassurance that there is no risk to the public in targeted shootings or shots fired, because we know there is always a risk – one acknowledged by OIC Bill Fordy as a “substantial risk to public safety” in this report to council earlier this year:
Each of us wholeheartedly supports and is thankful for our officers in uniform on the street, who day in and day out deal with the issues we are all trying to change. There has been a tremendous amount of positive work and involvement with our local RCMP community offices and the officers who run them. But an essential element to finding solutions and lobbying for federal changes is transparency and accountability – both of which are works in progress at the management, decision making level in the city of Surrey.