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.

 http://www.thenownewspaper.com/opinion/editorial-and-letters/letter-as-20-year-veteran-of-surrey-rcmp-i-know-how-short-staffed-detachment-is-1.1062169

The Editor,

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.

Update June18th,2015

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.

http://www.surreyleader.com/news/308199201.html

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

26 thoughts on “Politics must not trump public safety – It’s time for government to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to Surrey.

  1. I tend to disagree with you this time, LY. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is much like trying to communicate in a different language by yelling English louder. Basically the way we are doing things isn’t working. We don’t need more of it. I do agree that you “…. need more boots on the ground.” But that means more boots, not tires. The modern police officer is just too removed from the people and that simply doesn’t work. For most people, criminals and citizens alike, the police are just incompetent and annoying. They do as much good as a company of grannies do – “So, dear, how tall was he? Did he have any distinguishing marks? Of course, dear, we’ll get back to you when we find your purse/car/body parts.” They can’t STOP crime anymore like the London Bobbys did way back when, they can only show up and ask questions later. Armed to the teeth. With all sorts of lights and sirens to add to the silliness of the exercise.
    “Geez, JDC, don’t you support our boys in blue?”
    Not really. Not as they are. I don’t like the training as described by the recently acquitted Mountie (perjury) justifying tasering a guy five times while being assisted by three others. I don’t like the fact that dozens are deployed to protect Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby plant from peaceful protesters and I am not too chuffed about being stopped for a broken tail-light when Scorpions and other gangs are shooting each other in malls. The police seem to have their priorities ALL wrong. But I don’t blame the officer and I don’t blame his/her supervisor. They are just ‘out of touch’. These folks are directed to serve corporations, not people. This is a 19th century domestic army subtly directed ‘against’ the people, not FOR them. I really think the whole quasi-military model has to be re-thunk in light of the realities of the modern world. And, if nothing else, stop buying assault rifles and tanks and helicopters. And turn off the bloody lights once you get there!
    Put more bluntly: the current model for limiting crime is out of date, out of touch and, at times, out of control. We don’t more of the same. We need something new.

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    1. nonconfidencevote

      In a nutshell.
      The RCMP are unaccountable to the public in Surrey.
      They take their orders from Ottawa. The “leaders” in Ottawa are constantly looking for ways to increase their budgets, buearocracy, self importance.
      The RCMP training for recruits is based on an outdated, anachronistic military style command structure.
      Follow orders, shut up, do your job , dont ask questions…….
      Hows that style of investigative police work doin so far?
      They need to hire more East Indians( sorry Indo Canadians, sorry South East asians, sorry South asians. How un-pc of me).
      Undercover officers(or more realistically informants) that can provide quality intelligence that results in actual arrests and convictions.
      Unfortunately the Indo Canadian community has a inate distrust of police and the court system due to their experiences with rampant corruption of the Indian “legal” system.
      The communities in Surrey, Vancouver, etc. are so tight knit ANYONE from that community will put their familyat risk by providing information leading to arrests and convictions.
      Then they get to see the Canadian Court system at work…….
      RCMP officers perjuring themselves after tasering a man to death…..on video
      Not at lot of trust in our system either.
      Can ya blame them?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Curt

    But they keep letting the developers and others build and build with the infrastructure not in place. It’s time STOP this until things are caught up, schools, roads, healthcare, police. Mayor Hepner, rein it in now. Enough of paying back the favours you and Diane owe. They’ll get over it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. judisommer

    Well, the Torys have landed themselves a “star” candidate with Ms Watts. Let’s see how she addresses community safety issues dear to the heart of Blaney et al in the light of clawing back what was budgeted for . Will she tow the party line by saying as he (or was it Oliver?) this was “fiscal prudence”? Will voters turn a blind eye to safe streets as long as those child allowances come flooding in?

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    1. Heather

      Of course she will. We all know that no matter what high ideals a candidate may have when he/she enters the political arena, they are quickly squashed by the party line. None more so than in the Conservative (Harper) caucus. She is toast as far as helping Surrey goes, unless it is in her party’s best (special) interest to do something for them.

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      1. judisommer

        Hi Heather. Mine were mostly rhetorical questions about how she will spin this and whether Surrey voters can be easily bought by their own tax dollars. So much for the much touted Tough on Crime Tory mantra.

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  4. Mosko

    Watts, while running federally will make incredible promises and not deliver.

    Much as she did as mayor. The priority is develop, develop develop and collect those fees and taxes. So what if there are no trees left or communities are fractured and gangs have free reign? That’s all collateral damage, and none of them live in the most affected neighbourhoods, anyway.

    Buying votes with photo ops is more productive in getting elected in this day and age than actually solving problems.
    Label me as cynical.

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  5. #surreybc People the mess was and is responsibility of present and former mayors. So.. Don’t throw in the towel, don’t elect Watts. Look for someone who will do something for the people of Surrey, someone with guts, smarts and legal savvy and that is not Watts. Stay tuned.

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  6. Jean

    r,,,not only is the location of the new billion dollar digs for the RCMP completely insane, it should be in a location where they can best serve the public and that is not in Dianne’s new CITY CENTER on the NORTH border of a huge city. The city center where it rightfully was was perfectly located and able to respond to all the many crimes in Surrey much faster from this central location.

    I also find no need for the RCMP digs to include a stocked bar, a bar where people come and go all day and night and driving their cars wherever they go. GET RID OF THAT BAR NOT NOW BUT RIGHT NOW not only for safety reasons but why the hell should the taxpayers pay for your gang to have a bar at work????

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  7. This week, Stephen Harper and his subordinates claimed they care about victims not criminals. That must be reassuring to Surrey citizens since, if Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada are sincere, they will ensure the needed police resources are available immediately.

    Of course, they might have done that before now if, in fact, they were sincere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila

      Indeed. It is a simple fact that when your population is growing by 1000+ a month,for years,that you need to keep pace with police resources.And people who don’t live here,don’t always get how big Surrey is. If officers on shift are responding to a major incident in north Surrey, and something happens in S.surrey, that’s a long ways to go. It’s comparable to having a class of 35 students and only 4 pencils to write with.

      The issue of addressing the social and criminal matters are completely separate but equally important. Watts riding for MP is a safe seat for the Conservatives.And she would still be just one small seat in Surrey. This policy of reducing RCMP funding and diverting it elsewhere started years ago. We always needed more RCMP, it is simply highlighted when we have extraordinary instances of turf wars like this one. Even when the shooting stops, the need for more officers will remain but the voices of residents will once again simmer down until something else pushes it over the edge.

      The cities own experts detailed the inability to perform proactive policing with our current number of officers and even reactive policing is suffering with longer response times and no response to many minor calls.

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      1. You are $50,000 in debt and getting deeper every day….your parents give you ten G’s to help….are you any better off? Really? Or is the problem the same as it was and just getting worse despite the temporary band-aid? You want more RCMP to solve a deepening social disease? Fine. Ask for the five thousand or more armed and dangerous, sometimes trigger-happy uniformed gang that is the RCMP to come and patrol every intersection in the entire municipality. Marshall law. The crime scene will move to Langley. Problem solved? I don’t think so.

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        1. Laila

          JDC,as I have said, I don’t disagree on dealing with the social issues – that is critical.But guess what-the province isn’t stepping up to fund desperately needed resources for mental health, homelessness, poverty reduction,education, etc etc… there has been so much funding cut over the years to justice services, legal aid etc. And in Surrey due to the vast amount of secondary suites that provide what comprises a large portion of the lower mainlands affordable housing, we have a very large population that is vulnerable to all of the above social issues. The crime scene isn’t moving anywhere JDC.

          But the fact remains that we are, by many standards, still short of the officers needed to respond to the vast numbers of calls made daily to the RCMP… let alone do proactive policing like community beat patrols etc.

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          1. Any idea on how much money Surrey residents are subsidizing illegal secondary suite property owners who are not being billed for Water, Sewage and Garbage? A registered secondary suite ensures tenants, and neighbours, that the home has been inspected for building deficiencies eg. Independent control of heating from the Landlord side; Wiring; Plumbing; Parking provided on property not on the street; Sufficient natural light; Emergency Exits; Fire Extinguisher;

            http://www.surrey.ca/city-government/7617.aspx

            $1,000 penalty fee for a secondary suite not registered will be added to the taxes due on the related property for each unregistered secondary suite at the property. 1,000 suite penalties = $1,000,000

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          2. My point is: that the old way of fighting fire with fire is no longer working anywhere. See Boston. See Ferguson. See Vancouver. See Toronto. That way stopped working decades ago (see: Rodney King). Surrey needs a new policing model. Probably everywhere does. But Surrey is the best place to start something new because the old way isn’t even being fully deployed and the city is growing like a fungus. The point: go for something new now. Stop asking for more of the same – propose something new.

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  8. e.a.f.

    Nothing will be done about this. There will be the usual talk. Its too soon for another community meeting, or people will get bored and know the politicos don’t mean it. yes, we’ve heard the federal cabinet minister flap his gums but that is about all he will do. He says they’ll send a 100 RCMP officers out. right, like where have we heard this before. They don’t have 100 RCMP officer in training and then there is the matter of being sent rookies. Like who needs that?

    The police chief and politicians have known for years Surrey is greatly understaffed. Nothing was done then and nothing will be done now. As long as the politicos and their friends aren’t being shot or it isn’t in their neighbourhood nothing is going to be done. If anyone believes any different, I have a nice swamp to sell you.

    The problem is poverty. That isn’t going to change with the current governments in office. There are insufficient programs in schools and/or communities centres. There are no decent paying jobs. What does society expect young people to do when raised in a consumer society. Low paying part time jobs doesn’t cut it and the young people are not so stupid they think anything is going to change.

    The shootings will continue. The politicians will continue to make noise. Oh, perhaps Steve and his Cons will pass some new laws, which will be tossed out by the Supreme Court of Canada.

    Boss hogg Steve is too busy playing “great warrior leader” somewhere in the middle east and Europe. He doesn’t care there are 1,200 dead/missing First Nations women. what makes anyone think he is going to care about a few shootings in Surrey. The provincial government doesn’t care. They don’t care thousands of kids go to school in buildings which could well collapse and kill them all in a decent earthquake, not to mention we have the highest rate of child poverty in Canada.

    in the end the people in Surrey are to blame for this problem. They didn’t want to pay more taxes, so this is what you get. They re-elected the same group of politicos and this is what you get. Me, I’d move out of the neighbourhood. This isn’t going to end and this isn’t going to change. O.K. maybe if property values fall enough.

    We ought to remember, the federal Cons have as many criminals as a Hell’s Angel’s chapter, so what is the difference.
    Paul Sona, guilty and in jail
    Del Mastro, guilty and awaiting sentencing
    Arthur Porter, in jail in Panama, charged with $22M fraud in Canada
    Duffy, on trial 31 counts of fraud
    Wallin, under investigation
    Brazeau, under investigation.
    That’s just the recent stuff.

    How much do the Cons really care about crime? Well they cut the RCMP budget for the section which is supposed to fight child porn. If they can’t get it together to do that, do you think some shootings are going to make them pay attention.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There is SOME logic in the proposal, NVG. Some. But consider this: two all-nuts (John and Amanda) are ‘supported’ in their efforts to buy pressure cookers by the police and then they are ‘caught’, and arrested as terrorists. Then a bunch of lawyers and judges get involved billing all the while. Basically two drugged-up nincompoops have cost the taxpayers millions and yet have done – actually DONE – nothing. And they will continue to cost us as the system feeds. So, really, is the answer in the catching of nincompoops? Is it in prosecuting them? Are we really so riddled with so many bad guys that only our billion-dollar police-lawyer-judge-jail system can deal with it as inadequately as they have? Or are we going about all this the entirely wrong way? Put bluntly, there is not much point on putting new upholstery into an old oil-burning beater, now is there? Treo? Maybe. In the short term. Long term? We need a new system.

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