COLUMN: Crime rate reflects many underlying factors

Policing in Surrey will soon see a great deal of transition, with the move to a city police force.

So it is good news to hear that crime, in almost all categories, was down in 2018. Criminal Code offences fell by four per cent during the year.

There were significant reductions in break-ins, sex crimes, attempted murders, robberies, car thefts and thefts from vehicles.

Overall, property crime was down by 11 per cent, which is very significant for a growing city. All areas of the city other than Whalley saw a reduction in crime. In Whalley, there was a two per cent increase.

Gang activity remains a big concern for Surrey residents. Surrey RCMP officer in charge Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald addressed that concern while giving council the latest crime statistics.

He said the Surrey Gang Enforcement Team checked 1,634 people in the last six months of 2018. This resulted in 91 charges, 21 vehicles seized and 577 violation tickets. McDonald emphasized that prevention and intervention is as important in dealing with gang and drug activity as is enforcement.

The federal government recently announced it will help fund anti-gang activities in Surrey to the tune of $7.5 million over five years. This money will go towards 11 separate programs, and Mayor Doug McCallum said each organization that receives funding will report back to the city so that the results can be measured.

Some of the money will go towards hiring outreach workers who will follow up on calls to a helpline for parents who are concerned about their children potentially being involved in gangs.

Not everyone is jumping for joy. Wake Up Surrey, which has been critical of all levels of government on the gang issue, said much more needs to be done. It also condemned federal politicians for holding a photo-op on Jan. 22 to mark the funding announcement. The organization has also called for a huge increase in police officers, as many as 350, so that Surrey’s police-to-population ratio can start to approximate Vancouver’s.

Felix (Green) Konguy, who ran for Surrey council with Proudly Surrey in October, runs a non-profit known as Baobab Inclusive Empowerment Society.

He is skeptical about the funding announcement, stating that some of the big organizations who get the funds “have failed this community for decades.”

He said his organization gets little funding, but makes a difference through one-to-one programs.

“Let’s not forget that crime is related to so many underlying factors and any programming must address inequality, job training, coaching, mentorship, opportunities, social justice and rehabilitation,” he says.

There is much to do when it comes to discouraging young people from even thinking about entering gangs. It starts in the home, and prevention programs do make a difference.

The 2018 policing statistics show some hopeful signs, but the challenge will never end.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca – email frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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