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Surrey is 45 cops short, councillor says

Mayor Dianne Watts said she'd hire 100 officers tomorrow if the city had the money to pay for them.
Const. Faz Majid with Cst. Raymond Lee.
A Surrey councillor says this city is 45 police officers short.

The city has fallen behind in providing police officers.

Coun. Barinder Rasode says Surrey needs 45 officers this year to come up the commitment made within the city's own Crime Reduction Strategy (CRS).

The much-touted document, a cornerstone of the current municipal administration, makes several promises regarding policing and public safety.

Among them is "that the city continue its commitment to allocate resources to police services in proportion to the city’s overall growth at a minimum of one officer to every 700 residents or better."

Mayor Dianne Watts challenges the notion that the figure is as high as 45, but says there's no question this city needs more police.

"We know we need more police resources, there's no doubt about that," Watts said. "If I could have another 100, and pay $15 million for that, I would do it tomorrow."

Currently, the mayor said, the city is examining resourcing and deployment of Surrey RCMP.

She said when that study is done in March, Surrey will examine how many more officers it needs to hire.

If the city wants to keep up to its "commitment" in the CRS, the number is substantial.

Surrey's projected population for 2014 is 511,000 and it will have a complement of 686 RCMP officers. To keep up with the promised ratio, the number of officers should be 731.

It means this year, the city is 45 Mounties shy, and would cost the city $6.75 million to hire.

Rapid growth is part of the reason Surrey has fallen behind on its goal, Rasode says.

Surrey is growing by between 800 and 1,000 people per month. The city typically hires 12 police officers annually.

However, to keep up with the one officer per 700 people ratio, the city should have been hiring between 14 and 17 new officers each year.

Rasode said it's time to revisit the goals.

"I think it's time to review our targets based on changes in policing models and technology," Rasode said. "We need a long-term approach on officers as we make sure a critical community-based policing model is implemented and maintained."

There's a sense of deja vu about Rasode's call for police.

Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum pulled then-Coun. Dianne Watts from chair of the Public Safety Committee after she told The Leader in 2003 the city could use 100 more police officers.

Watts then left the Surrey Electors Team, and displaced McCallum as mayor in 2005.

The following 2006 budget called for 55 police officers over three years, which was accomplished. The city then dropped down to hiring 12 per year.

Many are speculating as to whether Rasode, currently the chair of public safety and police committees, is attempting a run at the centre chair.

Rasode said she has no intention of running for mayor in Surrey.

"No, I'm not running for mayor," she told The Leader Tuesday.

She said part of her job as councillor is to be "very responsive in a timely manner to issues that are at hand."

Those issue currently happen to be crime-related, which falls within her portfolios, she said.

She also said she wants some new technologies introduced as soon as possible.

One of them is a mobile device application allowing people to report crime with a couple of clicks.

She also wants a dedicated phone line to city hall, whereby people could report crimes.

She also noted recent experience in Halifax and Winnipeg shows more foot patrols dramatically reduce street crime.

The ability to report crimes and levels of policing came up frequently at a forum in Newton Monday.

The event was held after a hockey mom Julie Paskall, 53, was killed at the Newton Arena last month.

After the meeting, Surrey RCMP Chief-Supt. Bill Fordy acknowledged the city could use more police, but to be more specific in terms of numbers would be "simplistic."

"If I was asked today if I could use more resources, the answer would be 'yes,' " Fordy said.

He added that oversimplifies things, because other groups – such as crime prevention and social service resources – also play a significant role.

Rasode said Tuesday Surrey needs to keep its promise to the police and the public to keep at least a ratio of one officer per 700 people.

She said she would be bringing the ideas to the public safety and police committees.