Saddened, sickened, and angered over murder
An open letter to Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts:
I am writing to you in the wake of the recent tragic, senseless murder of Julie Paskall at the Newton Recreation Centre.
I am a 54-year-old “hockey Mom” who has been living in Fleetwood for over 20 years, along with my husband, raising our family. I am so saddened, sickened and angered about this murder and at the increasing criminal activity transpiring in both my immediate neighbourhood and Surrey in general. I am irate this vicious attack on an innocent, highly valued member of my community has happened and where murders, assaults and criminal activity seems to be “common place” nowadays.
I guess I should consider myself “lucky” that so far my family has only been affected by having our material possessions stolen from our yard, vehicles broken into numerous times, as well as having two vehicles stolen from our driveway.
We have also experienced our local high school (Fleetwood Park) being put in full lock-down in October of 2011, several murders, drive-by shootings at houses, and numerous grow-ops, to name some of the criminal activity in our immediate area.
Also disconcerting is the increased frequency of the police helicopters flying over. I am so disgusted and fed up that I now find myself looking forward to moving away from a city that has much to offer to families, but is now overshadowed by ongoing and increasing criminal activities.
I also am a part-time employee for the City of Surrey, teaching fitness classes at three different recreation centres in Surrey in the evenings. One of the centres I teach at (Surrey Sport & Leisure) has such dismal lighting in the parking lot, that from November to March I feel extremely unsafe going to and from my classes and I have seriously thought of quitting teaching there. It is especially bad during the busy hockey season when the lot is so full I have to park in the perimeter spots, which are surrounded, by the densely treed area of Bonnie Schrenk Park.
There have been numerous crimes transpiring in the parking lot at Surrey Sport & Leisure Centre, which was acknowledged by the City of Surrey when they installed auto theft signage throughout the lot. On a few occasions I have been witness to drug deals “going down” in this parking lot, as well as at Fleetwood Community Centre.
In the fall of 2012 I wrote to Chris Gains, the arena manager at Surrey Sport & Leisure, expressing my concerns about the lack of lighting. Chris replied, telling me they had no money allocated in the 2012 budget for security lighting, but were looking at it for 2013. I found this unacceptable, as I felt it was a major security issue and felt patrons were being put in danger due to the limited lighting. I couldn’t understand how the City of Surrey and their risk assessment would not make this more of a priority.
However, I was optimistic when in the summer of 2013 I found a large wooden sign in the parking area of Surrey Sport & Leisure from Action Plan B.C. stating they would be upgrading the lighting in the parking lot of the facility. Unfortunately to date nothing has happened.
On the evening of Julie Paskall’s murder outside Newton Arena, I was picking up an out-of-town visitor, who unfortunately got lost coming to our house and ended up at the Newton bus exchange. It was approximately 7:50 p.m. when I arrived at the bus exchange and I was very aware of the lack of lighting at both the Newton Arena parking lot and bus exchange area, thinking it reminded me of the parking lot at Surrey Sport & Leisure Centre.
While I understand your pride in cleaning up the Whalley area in anticipation of the opening of the relocated city hall and commend you for this, I am sure you are aware the criminal activity has not been thwarted, only moved to different areas of the city, such as Newton.
Although I don’t live or work in the Newton area, I have observed the decline of that neighbourhood over the past few years and because of this make a conscious decision to no longer patronize that area for shopping or other activities. If I am ever asked to teach at Newton Recreation Centre I decline and this is only because of security/safety issues.
I understand there is a larger issue here requiring both provincial and federal involvement, such as changes to our judicial system, mental health care facilities, substance abuse/rehabilitation facilities, increased RCMP presence patrolling on foot and bike.
I also understand the responsibility at the municipal level to ensure residents’ safety, as well as employee safety at city-run facilities.
As an employee of the City of Surrey, I would like to invite you to meet me at my place of work on a Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. and experience what it feels like to walk into the dark parking lot. I would also appreciate some time to discuss with you the issue of upgrading lighting/security at all the recreation facilities so employees and patrons can come and go without the fear of being victimized.