Surrey to beef up RCMP numbers

Surrey's police committee has committed to hiring 95 RCMP officers over the next five years – 35 more than had previously been included in the city's existing five-year plan.
— image credit: Leader file photo

Surrey's police committee has committed to hiring 95 RCMP officers over the next five years – 35 more than had previously been included in the city's existing five-year plan.

Mayor Dianne Watts said the number came from a study initiated by Dr. Irwin Cohen last October. Cohen is the RCMP research chair at the University of the Fraser Valley.

The city's police committee met on Wednesday and recommended hiring 95 officers over the next five years. More of those could be hired in earlier years if seen as necessary, Watts said.

The extra 35 officers being committed for hire come at a total cost of about $5 million annually, but with no cost to the taxpayer, Watts said.

Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said the cost of the officers can be covered through efficiencies, such as RCMP health care that's now paid for by the province rather than municipalities.

"We've realized significant savings that I'll be following up on with the city manager and the general manager of finance," Fordy told The Leader. "In that process, subject to their authority, I believe we can increase (the allocation to) 95 police officers."

Last January, Coun. Barinder Rasode called for 45 new officers to be hired immediately, to bring the number of boots on the ground to the ratio promised in the 2007 Crime Reduction Strategy (CRS).

The much-touted document, a cornerstone of the current municipal administration, makes several promises regarding policing and public safety.

Among them is "that the city continue its commitment to allocate resources to police services in proportion to the city’s overall growth at a minimum of one officer to every 700 residents or better."

At the time of Rasode's request, Watts challenged the notion that the required increase in Mounties was as high as 45, but said there's no question this city needs more police.

"We know we need more police resources, there's no doubt about that," Watts told The Leader in January. "If I could have another 100, and pay $15 million for that, I would do it tomorrow."

Watts said Wednesday the addition of new officers has nothing to do with Rasode's request.

She said the decision was entirely based on the study being undertaken by Cohen.

In addition to the increase in RCMP officers, the police committee endorsed hiring 20 Community Safety Patrol personnel, half of which will start work immediately within the Newton Town Centre.

Aside from the increase in RCMP officers and the addition of Community Safety Patrol and Community Constables (who will carry firearms and have the power to arrest people), the City of Surrey will also move from reporting its crime statistics on a quarterly basis to a monthly basis. The data will be open to everyone.

The announcement of new officers is still subject to the endorsement of Surrey council at its regular meeting next Monday.

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