In the wake of a targeted shooting in South Surrey last week that left one man with non-life-threatening-injuries – and unwilling to co-operate with police – Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said that drug trade-related crimes are spreading through Surrey, but also throughout the province.
“Nobody likes to see this kind of crime in their neighbourhood,” she told Peace Arch News Monday. “We’ve seen it more in North Surrey in the past, but it’s everybody’s problem.
“I don’t think anyone’s immune from crimes in the low-level drug trade.”
Hepner was speaking following a news conference Monday afternoon in which Surrey RCMP took the unusual step of releasing the names and pictures of five men who have been the targets of shootings in the city over the past five weeks, under the heading “Targets of recent shootings continue to pose risk to public safety.”
Officers did not identify the specific incidents the targeted individuals were connected with.
Police were called to the scene after reports of shots fired, and one witness tweeted that the incident appeared to be a shooting outside of The Drip Lounge – an IV clinic. The victim, who had fled the scene, was found a short time later near the site of the shooting.
An RCMP news release that evening confirmed that two buildings – one commercial and one residential – and one vehicle were struck by bullets during the shooting.
Asst. Cmsr. Dwayne McDonald said during Monday’s news conference that each of the five identified men have refused to provide information on these shootings.
“At this point, we must assume that these men continue to be targets and, as such, we are advising the public to be cautious of any interaction with these five individuals,” he said. “Although their lives are in danger, they are refusing to provide details to the police,” he noted.
“We believe these individuals also know who the suspects are in many of these cases. They also refused to identify these individuals. As such, these intended victims themselves have become a risk to the safety of our city.”
The men were identified as Karman Singh Grewal, 25, of Vancouver, Surrey residents Indervir Singh Johal, 23, and Harmeet Singh Sanghera, 23, and Coquitlam residents Ibrahim Amjed Ibrahim, 29, and Manbir Singh Grewal, 28.
“All have refused to provide statements or information.”
No arrests have been made in connection with the shootings in which police say the five men were targets.
Hepner said she has little sympathy for the men who were targeted.
“I hesitate to use the term ‘victims,’ ” Hepner said, “Because they’re all involved in the drug trade.”
“Hopefully if people see these guys they will stay away from them. I would not hesitate to say ‘keep your distance.’”
Hepner said she was pleased with RCMP efforts to curb the spate of shootings. Surrey has had 27 shots-fired incidents so far this year, down from 51 this time last year.
“I’m proud of the work our guys are doing – we’re down 47 per cent over last year in this kind of crime,” she said.
“But that doesn’t matter, when you see an incident like this.
“These people are a stain on the community… They’re endangering not only themselves, but putting innocent people at risk.”
Hepner acknowledged how worrying it is to residents who have not seen this kind of crime in their neighbourhoods before.
“People say ‘what more can we do?’ What I can control is making sure (police have) adequate resources and staff. That’s why I added 100 new members to Surrey, which was unheard of at the time. And, since then, we’ve added another 32, with another 16 due between now and 2020.”
Hepner added that data provided by Surrey firefighters responding to fentanyl overdoses indicates that illegal drug trafficking is taking place throughout the city.
“We have pockets of higher incidence, such as around 135 A Street – but it’s absolutely everywhere, all through the city.”
At the press conference Monday, McDonald declined to discuss details of the conflict fueling these recent shootings.
“I know the residents of this city are frustrated and I know this has gone on too long, and you want us to do something,” he said.
“I hear all of your concerns and I share in your frustration. We have significant overt and covert police officers assigned to this issue and it remains our top priority.”
Although yearly figures have declined, there were six targeted shootings in Surrey in July – including one, on July 9 in which an innocent bystander, a 64 year-old woman from Ontario, was grazed by a bullet.
Surrey Mounties are currently trying to identify the owners of three vehicles “of interest” related to a drive-by shooting in Whalley on July 20, and the people who were in those vehicles during the gunfire.
No injuries were reported in the event, which happened not far from Betty Huff Elementary School on Huntley Avenue, where children were playing.
Anyone with further information is asked to contact the Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502.