COLUMN: Surrey’s crime numbers a growing concern

City's second-quarter crime statistics are troubling, and much work needs to be done, writes Frank Bucholtz.

There is some good news and much to be concerned about in Surrey RCMP’s second-quarter crime statistics.

The good news is that property crime reports and the number of murders are both down. Police have also made a noticeable dent in dealing with prolific offenders in the areas of auto crime, weapon seizures and possession of stolen property.

In the case of murders, as of July 31, the murder rate was down 14 per cent. Both 2013 and 2014 were not good years in terms of murders, so it is good that there’s been a decrease. Given the many random shooting incidents over the past four months, it’s almost miraculous that the numbers are down.

Overall property crime is down seven per cent, which is significant. Property crime is among the most annoying, as police often are slow to respond, the number of incidents is large, the items taken are important (and sometimes irreplaceable), and it never seems to end.

Break and enters are down 16 per cent and thefts from vehicles are down 17 per cent. This is likely due to many factors, but vigilance and attention to details, such as not leaving valuables in plain sight, make a substantial difference.

In the areas of concern, violent crime is up substantially in Surrey – 36 per cent. Sexual assaults are up, and spousal assaults are up 13 per cent. In the area of sexual assaults, 88 per cent of victims knew the alleged offenders.

Robberies are up substantially and violence in general is becoming a bigger and bigger problem.

Surrey has long had a problem with violent crime. This is due in part to the rapidly growing population and the tendency of many people to move frequently. Poverty is a contributing factor. Gang recruitment and the widespread sale of drugs are also factors.

Despite very high property prices and ever-higher rents, many people come to Surrey because it can be a cheaper place to live. There is a price to pay though, and it may be in the atmosphere of the neighborhood, indifference to obvious social problems and the anonymity which a big city offers.

Police have tried to deal with these issues in a variety of ways, but by the time they get involved, the problems are often very large and almost impossible to solve. The city has also spent millions in recent years in creating programs for kids and teens, building recreation centres and trying to offer innovative events which can offer positive experiences.

Crime will never go away,but there clearly is a need to do much more to get the violent crime rates down. Having more police officers (the 100 additional ones asked for by the city are slowly starting to trickle in) will help. So will much more two-way communication with neighbourhoods, community groups, business organizations and other key community players.

The High Risk Location Initiative, which began almost two years ago and  involves joint work by Surrey RCMP, the fire department, and bylaw officials is also a positive way to address these problems from a more holistic perspective.

However, the community has to be deeply involved in a large number of ways in order for violent crime to be reduced substantially. There is a great deal of work that remains to be done.

Frank Bucholtz writes Fridays for Peace Arch News.

frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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