COLUMN: Crime in Surrey by the numbers

Despite a gang war that continues throughout the province, Surrey's violent crime numbers are down this year.

Surrey may be part of a larger gang war that seems to be underway in B.C., but in general, violent crime is down significantly.

Two young men were killed Friday night in Fraser Heights, in what could be some sort of retaliatory move. As of this writing, there was no word if the shootings were gang-related. Media reports state that neither had criminal records, and no ties to gangs are apparent.

However, there have been several other recent killings and shootings in various parts of the Lower Mainland which clearly have gang ties. These shootings have taken place in Langley and Burnaby, and they have brought back memories of the Lower Mainland gang warfare which took place in 2009.

At that time, many of the shootings took place in Surrey and some people were alarmed about going out to do routine activities such as shopping, dining and recreation.

Recent crime statistics released by Surrey RCMP show that violent crime is down by 13 per cent in the first nine months of 2016, when compared to the same period in 2015. This is particularly significant when considering the spate of drive-by shootings earlier in the year, which caused concern in the community.

That spike in shootings led to criticism of police and Surrey politicians, and Mayor Linda Hepner reacted, saying that the shootings were the work of “punks.” She also defended the number of arrests police had made in connection with the drive-by shootings.

There were 4,807 violent crimes reported to Surrey RCMP in the first nine months of the year. There were 5,518 in the same period in 2015. While the number of murders in the first nine months of both years was the same, at eight in each year, robbery incidents were down by 38 per cent. Attempted murders were also down, from 24 to 18.

Business break-ins were down, but residential break-ins were up, by 12 per cent. Weapons offences dropped by 30 per cent. Overall, the statistics show a five per cent decrease in all Criminal Code offences in the first three quarters of 2016. There were 36,316 offences in Surrey in that period, as compared to 38,309 in that period in 2015.

The big picture is the one that most Surrey residents should focus on.

Media tend to concentrate on high-profile incidents, but most crimes are never reported on by media outlets. It’s good news that the number of violent crimes is down this year, and it’s good news that the number of Criminal Code offences is down.

Considering that Surrey’s population is growing, and that there is a large number of young people living in Surrey (and young people are disproportionately found to commit crimes, even though the vast majority are law-abiding), Surrey RCMP are doing a good job in tamping down the numbers.

Of course, there are always concerns that some crimes go unreported. This has been an ongoing problem in Surrey for years, as the relatively low number of police officers per capita has meant that many calls to police do not warrant an in-person response. Hopefully, the hiring of more than 100 new officers is changing this, and people will feel more confident about reporting crimes.

It is important that people feel safe in their homes on the streets and in the community at large. Overall, there is no reason to feel unsafe in Surrey, in most neighbourhoods and at most times of day.

Nonetheless, Surrey RCMP must not rest on their laurels. The job of reducing crime and improving public safety will always be an ongoing one.

Surrey politicians must also recognize how important this issue is to members of the public, and continue to hire enough police officers to keep crime stats moving downwards.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News.

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