COLUMN: Surrey as safe as anywhere
Five murders in the first month of the year is a dubious distinction for Surrey to have, particularly as the city`s murder rate has been on a gradual decline over the past dozen years or so.
The latest incident occurred sometime Sunday night or early Monday morning. A young man’s body was found along Colebrook Road, in a dark and isolated area of rural Surrey. There are suggestions that the murder was gang-related.
That area is an inhospitable place at night. During the day, many people enjoy the walking trails and marvellous views at nearby Mud Bay Park, but at night it becomes a gathering place for young people in fancy vehicles. Drug dealing and other criminal activity is not unusual, and neighbours report hearing gunshots on several occasions.
It is very dark at night, and very few people actually live along Colebrook Road. The isolation and proximity to urban areas of Surrey make it a logical gathering place for those who do not wish to be observed.
While the focus for Surrey RCMP and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team needs to be on suspects and links between the five murders (if there are any), in the meantime, stepped-up patrols in that area are needed. They are needed in many other Surrey neighbourhoods, too, but there are only so many police officers to go around. Given Surrey`s rapid growth, it may be time to add more RCMP officers, particularly for ongoing patrols in crime hot spots.
Mayor Dianne Watts and Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy want to concentrate on getting the message out to youth about the consequences of being in a gang. Many young people are attracted to the lifestyle, particularly the perceived money and power. But it is highly dangerous and is destructive. While drug kingpins, dealers and users are killed or suffer serious health consequences, their families suffer just as much.
Gang activity is not restricted to Surrey. There are gangs in many parts of the world, and in most cases the attractions are the same.
Overall, Surrey remains a safe city to live in. Police do a decent job in tending to crime here, but they are hampered by rules about search warrants, by the revolving door of the justice system, and by the length of time between charges being laid and a case actually being dealt with. There is a need to speed up activity in Surrey Provincial Court, but that is within the purview of the provincial government.
Many of the other frustrations can be laid at the feet of the court system itself, as a result of various Charter rulings, and the federal government, which is in charge of the corrections system.
It is questionable if senior judges ever think deeply about the consequences of many of their rulings. It is true that people who engage in serious levels of crime are often on the streets within days of their arrests. They also take advantage of every loophole afforded to them by the justice system, which remains focused on offenders and lawyers and not the community at large.
Despite all these challenges, Surrey remains a generally safe city in which to live. But that’s no reason to sit back and watch gangsters shoot each other. Continued emphasis on the dangers of gangs and stepped-up police patrols in certain areas, are needed.
Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.