Politics must not trump public safety – It’s time for government to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to Surrey.
*story updated below
After another Detroit style rolling shoot-out yesterday in Newton,the last thing Surrey residents wanted to wake up to was news of more gun violence this morning- this time in North Surrey.
It is little solace to anyone that todays shooting appears not to have been linked to the ‘low-level turf war’ some of the 26 shootings in the last 9 weeks. The victims are known to police and while the RCMP again say there is no risk to the public – ( Phew, don’t worry folks,it’s not connected to the ongoing turf war, it’s just one of those regular old, run of the mill shootings…) – this doesn’t give the neighbours any reasonable expectation of feeling safe knowing the people next door were all shooting at each other.
When I saw the footage this morning of what appeared to be nearly a dozen police vehicles dedicated to this investigation, instantly I thought: ” Please,don’t let anything happen anywhere else right now…” Why? Because the sad fact is that we still do not have enough RCMP officers on the street in this city and an event like this diverts many for a substantial amount of time. Fact.
This latest round of gun violence has had everyone’s attention again turned to gangs and drugs and how we all need to stop pointing fingers and work together. Our mayor and council has been feeling the heat from the community and rightfully so-there was a lot swept under the rug for years they’ve been trying to play catch up with.
Last year a 20 year veteran of the Surrey RCMP wrote a heartfelt letter to the Surrey Now, detailing how public safety was being compromised because of dangerous and chronic levels of under-staffing.
Re: “A safer Surrey: Is it just a dream?” the Now, May 8.
Your article highlights some of the impacts of having a chronically understaffed police department.
As the MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers noted, Surrey has fewer police per capita than any other community in the Metro Vancouver area. The impact of that means not only more crime, but it also takes a toll on those who provide the policing service.
Recent government data shows Surrey RCMP police officers carry criminal caseloads that are 78 per cent higher than comparable metro police forces.
What does that mean for the public? In a community more than twice the size of Vancouver it means increased response times, less visible police presence, and crimes that simply do not have anyone to investigate them.
Sixty of the 95 police officers promised over the next five years will be consumed simply by population growth.
There is no magic answer. If you want to catch criminals, you need enough police investigators to get the job done.
We need the help of the community as well – doing your part can make it difficult for car thieves, burglars, and gangsters to work here. However, investigating crimes and responding to violent incidents needs to be done by skilled police officers.
I have worked at the Surrey detachment for 20 of the past 22 years, and the reality is, the detachment is constantly dangerously short-staffed. Using security guards and other resources may provide some relief, though if history repeats itself, once the media attention fades, those resources will likely fade away as well.
Last year, the police officers serving this community provided more than 134,000 hours of unpaid overtime – nearly 65 fulltime police officers worth of time.
While that helps to mask the shortages of officers, it contributes to mental and physical burnout due to the demands of the job.
Why do these officers work so many hours without pay? They do it because, like you, they want to see criminals who terrorize their community in jail and simply do not have the time during their shifts to get all the work done.
We want our city to be safe. We live here, our kids go to school and play here. We want all families to be safe when they are out playing, going for a walk at night or simply going to the store to get groceries.
We also know that having enough police officers on the beat can have dramatic results. Remember when auto theft was out of control and more police officers were temporarily moved to address the problem? We saw dramatic reductions in auto theft. Take the pressure off and the problem comes back with a vengeance.
Trying to reduce crime in a community that is growing as quickly as Surrey while having a police force that has half the police officers compared to surrounding areas is a recipe for disaster and results in more crime, not less.
S/Sgt. Mike Ingles, Surrey
No kidding. I don’t have to tell you this kind of letter doesn’t happen often. And it pains me because there really is no excuse for this to have occurred. There just isn’t.
The city did not keep pace with the number of officers needed for population growth and has now tried to rectify that with recent requests, but as Ingles points out, it will only be keeping pace with population growth as over a 1000 people move to Surrey every month. Even the cities own experts agreed understaffing is a problem.
Much of what needs to be done to deal with the social and criminal issues in our community is dependent on provincial and federal funding. So fingers must indeed be pointed because those levels of government are still not coming to the table in any where near the capacity they need to be.
In a time where our federal government is loudly banging the drum of how they are keeping Canadians safe by re-directing resources to anti-terrorism efforts in our own country, there has been a failure of epic proportions in doing so.
According to this Toronto Star column:
“…the RCMP’s estimated budget for 2014 was $2.63 billion, a 5-per-cent decrease from 2013 and a 15-per-cent drop from four years earlier, Senator Colin Kenny points out.
If that weren’t cause enough for alarm, Public Accounts figures show the departments didn’t even get to spend what they were allotted. Reports say the drive for restraint has had a “chilling” effect, leading agencies to underspend.
Since 2007 the RCMP has handed back $1.7 billion and CSIS was unable to spend $180 million. In 2014 alone, the RCMP handed back $158.7 million…”
Keep in mind, this is right across Canada…but it gets even better….
” The Mounties diverted $22.9 million from other operations to the Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSETs) in 2013-14. ……
“As of Jan. 5, 2015, it is estimated that almost 600 RCMP full-time equivalents have been reallocated from other priority areas (e.g., serious and organized crime, economic crime and other national security files) to INSETs.”
Increased enforcement and investigation for anti-terrorism efforts cannot come at the expense of public safety elsewhere. There must be a balance so communities and other investigations aren’t left hanging.
I watched the minister of public safety Steven Blaney last night on Global talking about getting more boots on the ground in Surrey, as I had watched him just over a week ago, when he was standing strong with Surrey residents in their fight against gang violence. No commitments,but more talk of how much his government has done for crime.
I can’t help but wonder how fast resouces would be re-allocated to Surrey if Minister Blaney lived somewhere around 88th and 126th street. If this was all happening in his own neighbourhood.
When it comes to our provincial government, they too must come to the table.
How can we forget the $4.2 cuts made by the province last year in RCMP funding.…with dire results:
Callens said he’s being forced to cut $2.8 million from the budget for the anti-gang Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU), eliminating 12 positions. The Major Crimes program, which handles murders and missing persons cases, will see $1.4 million in cuts including the reduction of 13 full-time investigators.
In hindsight, I’m betting this is a decision someone regrets.
I’d like to stop pointing fingers, I really would.
But the people of Surrey are here, dammit, working hard to make a livable community where despite the violence ,they are forging ahead trying to make a city they are proud to call home, and they deserve far better than the same platitudes handed out at every single town hall meeting for years.
They deserve action. They deserve it now. And so do our officers on the street.
While a multi-faceted,proactive approach in prevention is one part of the solution,without adequate numbers of officers on the street I am concerned this violence will continue, officers will become overworked, and with the arrival of warm weather and longer daylight hours in the evening, someone innocent will get hurt.
The provincial and federal government must immediately step up to the table and recognize that Surrey is facing some extraordinary challenges that require extraordinary measures.
We need more boots on the ground and we can’t wait a year Minister Blaney. We need some resources re-allocated and diverted to our city now.
Because as many will tell you, what makes us so vocal about this violence, is that we know that Surrey is far more than shootings…. and we are weary of the bad constantly over-shadowing the tremendous light of the good that is here.
Earlier this month Blaney announced new officers were coming. It was then said the 20 new officers were on the ground in Surrey. Turns out, that just is not true.
These leaders are failing residents who live in areas where this has occurred, it has impacted those who have witnessed the violence and those who have the misfortune to live beside or behind those targeted.
And this young girl, and everyone else who is tired of this violence and the tension it brings, is why this matters so much. http://www.thenownewspaper.com/young-hero-struggles-to-cope-after-seeing-shots-fired-in-newton-1.1972331