The million dollar question in Surrey.
( More to come on Hydro this week,but today,recent events & conversation prompts this)
Earlier this year I had an admittedly uncomfortable conversation online with a long time Surrey advocate who would send me every link to every news story about every shooting or violence in the city, particularly in Newton. As someone who’s lived in Surrey and written extensively about how this violence impacts life in the city, I knew without it being said that the expectation was there that I would blog about it but I asked them directly why,if they were so concerned, they were saying nothing themselves?
The answer was understandable-managing work,personal life and duties as a block watch participant etc.- things we all balance in life – but what it came down to is that she is often ignored,even though her words come with direct experience and stats to back it up.
What’s troubling is that she wasn’t the only person I’ve had this same conversation with recently. Another long time and highly respected resident messaged me after the recent shooting in Newton,the latest after a series in recent weeks that’s causing a lot of angst among residents who fear a repeat of 2015. She was very upset, it hit very close to home for her,in an area with many young families.
I understood her concern, we all share it after more than 56 shootings in 2015,in addition to a large number of reports of shots fired where casings or holes couldn’t be found. Shootings that became increasingly brazen,occurring in mid-day in family neighbourhoods, hitting houses and cars and schools and in one case, terrifying a child who grabbed her playmates and took them to safety.
But I told her quite honestly, I didn’t know what to do in the face of so much silence again. I asked why and her response: “Because you get harassed for talking.”
I get that city officials want to change the media narrative and showcase what’s great in the city,but changing that narrative is only going to happen when the violence itself, stops.Not talking about the issues,doesn’t solve them. Asking or pressuring people socially to be quiet about it, doesn’t either. We are the good and the bad and it’s ok to acknowledge both – and we must.
So here I am. Because there are so many amazing people at the grassroots level in this city, working hard to make changes happen in their communities, whose good and hard work is often overshadowed by this kind of violence. They are working hard to build a sense of community and get people out of their homes and get engaged and develop community pride. They are promoting local business and starting art galleries and planting new public good gardens. And they aren’t letting the violence stop them…but there is an underlying concern always of where those bullets are going to end up… and why it seems to be unstoppable.
Surrey leaders reacted to last years ongoing gun violence by bringing in a new director of public safety. More meetings, more committees,more working groups. This report presented to the Public Safety Committee shows the framework for the cities new strategy, which by their timeline, is to be launched October 2016….
(I can’t help but wonder what the result would have been if the city committed to lobby the provincial and federal governments for extensive social supports for our youth and vulnerable citizens, with as much dedication as they have committed to LRT in our city…https://www.biv.com/article/2016/2/surrey-hires-liberal-lobbyists-push-federal-infras/)
Reports in the media indicate that most of the 100 new officers promised have been brought in, but concerns were voiced by sources as early as January that the number of general duty officers in each district,per shift hasn’t significantly changed, which impacts response times. Nor has there been any comment on the number of officers lost due to attrition, that will offset the new officers that have come in.
Gun violence in this city is not new and as the cities expansion continues without the desperately needed social infrastructure to go along with it keeping pace,one is left to contemplate the results. Who is responsible? City leaders yes,but also every resident in the city. When you get engaged and hold city,provincial and federal politicians accountable, they are forced to act.
A friend of mine reminded me of what happened during Quebec’s biker wars in the 90’s. As long as the bullets were flying between gang members only,not a lot was done. But when an 11 year old boy was hit by flying shrapnel after a car bomb exploded beside him on his way to the pool on a hot summer day and died days later, residents were finally spurred to action.
In Surrey, we are so much more than the sum of our parts and growing pains…but unless residents realize it is no longer enough to shake their heads and make concerned grimaces at the news, the cycle will continue.
That, I can guarantee.
*** The next Public Safety Committee meeting is Monday April 11th at 11:30 am. I strongly urge residents interested in what’s going on, attend if they can. It would nice if the city held these important committee meetings in the evening like council meetings, so residents who work, can attend.
Also… some more great work being planned by more amazing people…. please get involved if you live in the area!