COLUMN: More work needed to stay safe

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, on Monday morning. 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 marvelous 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 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, 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 young people about the consequences of being in a gang. Many young people are attracted to the lifestyle, particularly the money, power and adulation. But it is highly dangerous and is destructive to many people. 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, or the Lower Mainland or any specific area of this country or many other countries. There are gangs in many parts of the world, and in most cases the attractions are the same – money, power and adulation.

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 justice-system 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 criminal law, punishment, and most of the corrections system.

It is questionable if senior judges ever think deeply about the consequences of many of their rulings. It is certain that people who engage in very 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 criminal justice system, which, as always, remains focused only on offenders and lawyers, and not the community at large.

Despite all those challenges, and the large number of young people in our community who are vulnerable to the entreaties of gang recruiters, Surrey remains a generally safe city to live in. 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 writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.


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