Darlene Bennett supports keeping the RCMP in Surrey.
“A change in uniform will not make any difference” in crime rates, she told the Cloverdale Reporter.
Bennett and dozens of others from the group “Keep the RCMP in Surrey” went to an Oct. 7 council meeting to protest, what they claim to be, a lack of action on crime by the Mayor’s office.
Bennett’s been a vocal opponent of a new Surrey police force ever since the initiative was announced. Her husband Paul, a Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association coach, was shot in Clayton Heights in June 2018.
“My husband was murdered in our driveway at four in the afternoon,” she said, fighting back tears. “Since the mayor’s been elected, he’s done nothing to address violence. He’s cut youth programs, he’s cut infrastructure, and he shut down the public safety committee.”
When that committee was axed Bennett was enraged.
“It involved all of council. Everyone had a voice,” she said. “Dissolving the committee speaks volumes. The mayor isn’t giving people a voice. He wants to control the situation.”
Bennett also said, despite the surge in Surrey’s population and the surge in Surrey’s crime rates, the mayor hasn’t added one officer to the force since he was elected.
She doesn’t support a new police force because she said it will cost more money and have less officers than the current RCMP.
“I’ve read the report. We’d be paying more for less: more cost and less police officers on the streets.” She added there are also too many other issues. She said the report isn’t transparent, it doesn’t give factual information on why or how a new force will make Surrey safer, and she said it doesn’t address issues identified by the gang task force under the previous mayor, Linda Hepner.
“Paul’s life mattered. After the violence my family has had to endure,I can’t support a new police force,” she said. “My kids don’t feel safe. Kids in Surrey deserve to feel safe. Surrey deserves to be safe.”
Bennett said she blames Mayor McCallum for the recent bloodshed in Clayton Heights because of his inaction on tackling violent crime.
“I truly blame the mayor for what happened here in Clayton,” she said. “He has blood on his hands. I truly mean that. He’s done nothing.”
Bennett said the mayor could do a few simple things to get Surrey on a pathway toward making B.C.’s second most-populous city safer. She said it begins by immediately investing in manpower and resources for the RCMP; by addressing some of the issues set forth by the gang task force; and by investing in projects that tackle mental health issues, addictions, and homelessness.
“I have asked the mayor questions about these things in the past and I just get back cut-and-paste news releases.”
Bennett doesn’t understand how the Mayor’s office can put forth such a massive proposal as starting up a new police force without having facts, figures, and a road map showing Surreyites the way forward.
“We deserve answers. He should be reassuring us, and there is nothing.”
If the mayor did release an “SPD Road Map,” Bennett said she’d have to read it first.
“Right now, I’m not willing to bet on something that has no backing. It’s not the police that are the problem. It’s our courts. There are guys on the streets that shouldn’t be out there,” she said. “I want action now, not in two years.”
The Cloverdale Reporter reached out to the Mayor McCallum’s office, but calls were not returned by publication time.
Police have not made any arrests in the Paul Bennett murder case.