COLUMN: Public safety a shared job

Bringing down the crime rate in Surrey is a responsibility of police, city leaders and citizens.

A rash of shootings over the Christmas holidays might lead an observer to think that Surrey is a particularly violent place. It isn’t necessarily true.

Still, it’s hard to remember a holiday period when police are investigating three murders, which took place between Dec. 24 and 27, and a fourth serious shooting. The timing is horrible, considering that this is usually a quieter time of year and most people like to celebrate with family and friends.

While one murder may well be connected to a robbery attempt, as the victim was a convenience-store clerk, the reasons behind the others aren’t yet very clear. What does seem to be clear is that the gangland shootings that rocked much of the Lower Mainland in 2009, including Surrey, are again starting to escalate. This was predicted when gang leader Jonathan Bacon was gunned down in Kelowna this summer, and several shootings in recent months have definite gangland overtones.

While they are no less tragic than any loss of human life, gang shootings usually involve gang associates. Those who choose to get involved with gangs, usually to make a lot of money and live a fast lifestyle, are often targets for those involved with rival gangs. It’s all about gaining an edge in the type of criminal activity the particular gang is trying to dominate.

Generally speaking, Surrey is a pretty safe place to live. Most areas of the city are safe, day and night, and most people are law-abiding citizens.

Surrey RCMP are generally pleased with the crime trends. Despite a rapidly-growing population, many types of crimes are trending downward, and a number of enforcement measures, such as bait cars, have had a dramatic effect.

However, any large city is going to have a certain level of crime, and there is no avoiding it completely. As citizens, if we take proper measures to protect our homes and vehicles, we aren’t likely to have too many problems.

Nonetheless, there is a societal problem when young people see violence as the solution to whatever problems they feel they are going through. This doesn’t just involve gang members. In some cases, it involves failed relationships or other personal issues.

The tragic murder of 19-year-old Maple Batalia outside the Simon Fraser University Surrey campus on Sept. 28 has hit many people very hard, none more so than her family. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) has just released some video footage related to that case, and is asking members of the public to come forward with any tips they have to help police solve that case.

Police can’t do it all. They can’t stop violence from taking place. Citizens must do all they can to prevent and avoid violence. Prevention starts at home. And when serious crimes do take place, law-abiding citizens need to offer up any assistance to police that they can.

In the new year, we as citizens can resolve to make our corner of Surrey a less violent place, and when crime does occur, we can help police to solve cases by providing all the information possible.

A crime-free big city of Surrey will never be possible. But a city with less crime of all types, including murders and other violent crimes, is a concrete and achievable goal which city leaders and all citizens should subscribe to.

Here’s to a less violent 2012.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

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