Crime rate stats do not reflect reality
BY HARRY BAINS
MLA for Surrey-Newton
SURREY is one of the fastest growing and youngest cities in the country but has failed to implement a real and effective crime reduction plan to ensure Surrey continues to grow with healthy safe neighbourhoods. Our citizens have no assurances that we are safe in our own homes and in the community.
Surrey has one of the highest crime rates, but ranks 31st in the province when it comes to police officers per capita. In comparison, Vancouver enjoys 202 officers per 100,000 residents while Surrey has 137 officers. In a recent survey, 50% of the people in Surrey felt crime is their number one concern, while only 20% of Vancouverites feel this way.
Surrey’s Severity Crime Index is 26.5 points higher than Vancouver’s with 47% less officers. Surrey is not meeting its own crime reduction strategy targets. According to those targets, at present we are short 50 police officers.
As a result, many 911 calls for crime in Surrey are not attended to. Police resources are so stretched they are unable to attend to crime scenes. Therefore, out of frustration many citizens do not even bother to call police for crimes they witness in their neighbourhoods.
On the other hand, Delta has a policy where “No Call is Too Small.”
EVEN after the horrific death of hockey mom Julie Paskal and the establishment of the Mayor’s Task Force on Crime, crime rates are escalating at alarming rates, especially in the Newton area.
According to Surrey RCMP’s most recent 2014 stats for district three (Newton), compared to 2013:
* Total property crime up 51%,
* Sexual assault up 56%,
* Auto crime up 79%,
* Auto theft up 11%;
* Violent crime up 10%,
* Break and entering increased by 40%, and
* Offensive weapons offenses are up 79%
This is a clear indication that the city’s crime fighting strategy is not working. In the meantime, the provincial government has cut funding for the Combined Special Forces Enforcement Unit by $4.2 million at a time when we need to invest more into crime fighting strategies and our police force. This specialized unit has done tremendous work to reduce and solve gang killings, interrupt murder conspiracies and take illegal weapons out of the hands of criminals and off our streets. The B.C. Liberal plan to eliminate Team Six, which is the eyes and ears of this unit, is short-sighted, reckless, and flies in the face of their praise for this unit. We cannot afford to cut funding for public safety!
We need to set our priorities straight. With commitment from all three levels of government we can do better to make our city safer. In order to be effective we need a comprehensive well thought out plan.
SURREY’S Opposition MLAs have proposed a five-point plan to support local community concerns and solutions to help fight crime which include: Increased policing with modern policing model; creation of a community court; regulations of recovery homes; development of a mental health action plan; and increased support for non-profit and supportive housing.
Surrey needs more police officers on the street. An increase in officers would enable more foot and bike patrol to attend crime scenes and would go a long way to reestablish trust and faith in our law enforcement system. The creation of community courts will provide efficient access to the justice system and a problem-solving approach to criminal behavior for chronic offenders. The regulations of recovery homes would ensure people with addictions and mental health issues get professional help and are treated in a timely fashion. As a fast growing metropolitan city, Surrey needs to produce more affordable housing for its residents.
In a democratic society, such as ours, every citizen has a right to have a safe and secure environment to live in. It is the responsibility of the state to provide people with these assurances.
It is imperative people feel safe in their own homes, in their neighbourhoods and in the community.