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Is Surrey a Safe City?

Is Surrey a Safe City?

“You will feel the full force of the law and if you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishments. And to these people I would say this: you are not only wrecking the lives of others, you are potentially wrecking your own life too.” – David Cameron

The history of crimes is as old as the age of the world. Crimes are inherent in both civilized as well as uncivilized society. However the gravity, sensitivity, and reasons may vary in both societies. Individuals may have a selfish desire to fulfil-for example-to gain power, fear, peer-pressure, failure of self-direction, lack of moral judgment and character, disturb family life, boredom, genetic, poverty, drug habits, lastly to impress others.
Some crimes are committed simply from ignorance, revenge, lack of self-respect, jealousy greediness and the discrepancy held between the goals held by the society and the inability to reach those goals.

“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” – Nelson Mandela

According to M. Farouk Radwan, a researcher, “Every human behavior is done to serve a certain important psychological goal including the crimes people commit. What seems irrational from the outside like a crime is actually an attempt to do something completely rational like reaching a certain psychological goal.”

The Criminal Justice Reform, BC, defines as crime is an act or omission that violates the law and is punishable upon conviction. It further suggests crime typically occurs when three things happen at the same time and in the same space.

1.    A motivated offender is present.
2.    A suitable target is available.
3.    There is either something or someone present which encourages the crime, or nothing or no-one to discourage it.

surrey city hallNonetheless, one must appreciate that Canada has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Thanks to our active judicial system and the role of law enforcement agencies, crime prevention societies and community participation. According to Statistics Canada, from July 2013, crime rates across Canada have fallen to 46-year low and the homicide rate has dropped by 10% making it the lowest since 1972.

The Vancouver Sun report suggests, Canadian crime rate peaked in 1991 and has been falling ever since. Both violent and property crimes have been falling in much of the last decade in Surrey and Vancouver. Kelowna City, however, tops the Canadian crime list in 2012 with 8,875 crimes for every 100,000 people. In contrast, the entirety of Metro Vancouver stands at a rate of 6,958 per 100,000 which ranks at the seventh highest in the country.
After the city of Vancouver, Surrey is the second largest populous city of BC., and a multi-ethnic city of neighborhoods. It has grown into a cosmopolitan city and its population size is likely to surpass Vancouver in the future. Beside adequate public transit, Surrey has everything a city needs.  Moreover, each neighborhood is different and crimes vary from area to area. Nonetheless, as against the large cities of the world, people move around freely without having much to fear in the night. In the current year, however, there have been incidents of murder, suicides, and stabbings, a young lady swarmed and beaten and countless break-ins and other crimes (not reported).

The truth is crime is prominent in all major cities around the world and Vancouver including Surrey is no exception.  Crime is a problem that is not isolated to one place. The findings of several polls conducted in the recent past suggest crime was the biggest issue among voters going into the civic election this fall.

It’s not altogether surprising that crime has received much attention in Surrey recently. Hence, in Surrey mayor’s election this year, crime has dominated the agenda of every politician. In a poll conducted by Angus Reid of Metro Vancouver residents found just 12 % of Surrey residents rated their city as safe, as against 71% of residents of Richmond and Delta.

Linda Hepner, the new elected Mayor of Surrey has ‘crime’ on top of her agenda list. This is what she has promised to the voters during her election campaign.

surrey city - linda hepner“People need to feel safe in their communities and that is why safety is a top priority, we have added $54 million to the police budget in the past nine years and I am committed to seeing 100 more officers on patrol in the next 24 months in high density areas. We also need to tackle the root causes of crime that include addictions, mental health and homelessness. I will advocate for the establishment of a secure Mental Health Facility to better serve the vulnerable so they are not placed in the community with minimal support. I will develop a comprehensive policy framework, in my first 100 days, to ensure a better integration of local police and Provincial services. ”
The outgoing mayor also has to say this on Surrey crimes, “We see a significant influx of people into the city — between 1,000 and 1,200 a month — and a lot of families are coming in. We see a lot of young professionals coming in. And there’s that other element that comes as well. They set up shop in affluent areas of Surrey. So it’s certainly a challenge.”

Moreover, according to Maclean’s magazine, Surrey was ranked as the tenth most dangerous city of Canada back in 2010. The study was based on a sample crime data of 100 largest Canadian cities and measured 2010 crimes rates per 100,000 people. Crimes included in the study were homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, vehicle theft robbery and breaking and entering. The city ranked sixth in violent crimes and thirteenth in non-violent crimes nationwide. Surrey scored 58.2% higher than the national average in six crimes.

city of surrey crime chartThe research also showed after Quebec (184%) and Langley Township (177%)  Surrey had the third highest car theft rate (154%) higher than the national average in the country. Interestingly, in the early 2000s, Surrey was called the capital city of car theft in North America. According to the Langley Times issue of July 31, 2013, the Langley crime rate was nearly double the BC crime rate and almost three times the national average in 2012.

With the horrific death of hockey mom Julie Paskal this year, crime rates are escalating especially in the Newton area.   As evident from the table below, Violent Crimes (VC) increased by 14% in Q3, 2014 as compared to Q3, 2013. A further breakdown of the VC indicated that the highest percentage change increased (56%) noted was in Abducting/Kidnapping related cases and the largest decline came in Attempted Murder cases (-33%).

Property crimes (total) rose by 27%. The highest increase came from Theft Motor Vehicle (98%). Other CC Offenses (total) rose by 23%. The largest drop came in prostitution (-58%). Cocaine possession related cases dropped by 48% and marijuana production fell by 60%.

According to a report published in Vancouverdesi.com, Surrey’s violent crime rate per-capita is fourth highest in Metro Vancouver, behind Vancouver, New Westminster and Langley City. According to a recent SFU study, Surrey hast the highest overall crime rate by a wide margin, the smallest decrease in the crime rate since 2008 (tied with Richmond) and the lowest clearance (solved crimes) rate of all jurisdiction.

“If you were going to be successful in the world of crime, you needed a reputation for honesty.”
– Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay

surrey city - Sue HammellSue Hammell, Member of Legislative of Assembly from Surrey, British Columbia, was also interviewed for this article on the subject. This is what she has to say:

Do you believe Surrey is a safe place to raise one’s family?

I have lived in this city since 1990, and I know that Surrey is a safe place to raise one’s family. However, I also believe that all of us, as citizens, have the potential to make it even safer.

What should the local government be doing more to reduce crimes in the city of Surrey?

Despite the rapid growth in Surrey, we have fewer police officers than neighbouring cities. Increasing this number, however, is not an easy task nor is it completely within the municipality’s power to do so. The reality is that RCMP officers are trained nationally in Regina and the number of officers trained annually is limited. Additionally, new trainees are assigned throughout the country to replace retiring officers; to meet the needs of population growth; and to address emerging demands of crime.

With such limitations, we must adopt both creative and strategic approaches in developing an action plan that addresses the issues of crime in this City. Our local government, therefore, needs engage all levels of government and the community. This way, we can collaboratively create a plan of safety that ensures accountability for politician and citizens. It also ensures that the plan is appropriately resourced.

What should the community be doing to help reduce crimes in the city?

In the pursuit of crime reduction, it is essential that the community exercises an active role and level of responsibility towards the issue. Members of the community must contribute and utilize their strengths as resources in an effort to partner with the RCMP. We face an under resourced police contingency, where officers carry too many files and are over worked. While this lack of resource must be dealt with, we must also think of new and innovative ways to address crime. A commitment from the community, the RCMP and politicians is the key to achieving this.

Any message that you want to share?

Crime is an issue that affects all members of the community. It is imperative that the community, therefore, actively contributes to the resolution. Engagement and acceptance of one’s accountability to their city are essential in ensuring this. Although the RCMP and various levels of government can certainly bring change, it is dependent on the participation of the community at large. We need to explore creative solutions rather than relying on RCMP officers, such as auxiliary officers. Organized block watches are another example, and allow citizens to exercise a level of control over the safety of their own neighbourhood. It is also important for individual crimes to be reported immediately before they continue to occur and/or escalate in severity.
The truth is, Surrey is ranked 31st in the province when it comes to police officer per capita.  Vancouver has 202 officers, per 100,000 residents in contrast to Surrey that has only 137 officers. Surrey’s Severity index is 26.5 points higher than Vancouver’s with 47% less officers. At present the RCMP is short 50 police officers at least. Hence with limited number of officers, in some cases, the RCMP is unable to attend the crime scene. One of the immediate steps that the City government should take is to increase this number.

Crime reduction is a complex issue. It requires multi-pronged strategy and out of box thinking. It is time for the city government and the community to work together and find new venues and fresh ideas on how to fix the crime problem.

“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.”

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