Mental health ‘number one issue’
Businesses and community officials gathered in Ocean Park Friday to discuss crime prevention and crime-reduction strategies in South Surrey.
Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy, Staff Sgt. Dan Gibbons and Coun. Barinder Rasode were on hand to answer questions from the audience at the Surrey Board of Trade’s Crime Breakfast.
Topics included the state of mental health care in Surrey, the desire to create a community court and a regional police force.
When asked about flaws with in the health-care system that forced those who are mentally ill back on the streets, Rasode agreed that there was work that needed to be done.
“I think mental illness is the number-one issue for our community. Absolutely. Full stop,” she said, noting she hoped a representative from Fraser Health would attend future meetings to hear the concerns.
Rasode noted the city is advocating for a community court, similar to Red Hook Community Justice Center in New York.
“That’s not just a model that relies on the judiciary,” she said. “When a person comes in front of a judge, an assessment is done on why they committed the crime they committed. So if it is an addiction or mental-health issue, they are immediately mandated to programming that they actually get in the same building.
“I think ultimately that should be our goal.”
Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg was one of the two dozen or so attendees of the breakfast meeting. During the question period he asked Fordy for his opinion on regional policing.
Fordy noted that increased collaboration between police following the murder investigation of Port Coquitlam murderer Robert ‘Willie’ Pickton has led to vast improvements.
“The advances that have been made by law enforcement and our sharing of information, the standardization of investigation techniques, has been remarkable,” he said.
Other topics included the effectiveness of Bar Watch, with Fordy noting that the RCMP is still working to gain authority to remove suspicious people from all establishments – not just suspected gang members – rather than put employees in a dangerous position.
“The last thing we would want to do is put someone at risk,” he said.