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Bike squad, new officers part of Surrey’s plans to combat crime

People walk past a memorial to honour homicide victim Julie Paskall outside the Newton Arena in Surrey, B.C., on Jan. 5, 2014. Paskall was attacked on Dec. 29, 2013, while waiting to pick up her son outside the arena.

Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

Surrey will receive new police officers, foot patrol personnel and a permanent bike squad as part of an initiative to crack down on crime, the city's mayor has announced.

As well, closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance will expand and a nuisance bylaw will be created to address the problem of repeated calls for emergency service from one address.

Mayor Dianne Watts announced the measures at City Hall on Friday morning as part of an update from a task force she assembled in mid-November after a spike in crime. Surrey ended 2013 with a record 25 homicides.

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The local police force will get 24 new officers over the next two years, Ms. Watts said, as well as 20 new personnel for community safety foot patrols. As well, a permanent, six-member bike squad will be created and deployed to problem areas. Training for the squad begins on Monday.

Some of these increases have been announced before: In November, Surrey city council approved a 2014 financial plan that included 12 new police officers and five support staff. About $300,000 will be "realigned" to cover additional measures in 2014, Ms. Watts said. Taxes will not increase.

"I want to assure the people of Surrey that we will continue to confront and disrupt criminal behaviour in our city," the mayor said. "We will be relentless and we will not stop. We will be sending the message, as we always have been, that criminals are not welcome here."

CCTV will expand on major arterial roads into the city to incorporate automated licence plate recognition (ALPR) technology, Ms. Watts said. The technology – introduced in B.C. in 2006 and currently in use in cities including Vancouver, Victoria and Abbotsford – scans up to 3,000 plates an hour, flagging vehicles that have been stolen or used for criminal activity. In 2012, B.C.'s privacy commissioner said the Victoria Police Department had to change its ALPR technology to ensure data on cars not suspected of crimes are deleted immediately.

Surrey will also continue to work with the province to establish a dedicated court to prosecute prolific offenders, Ms. Watts said.

"We have a meeting set for the steering committee for March 14," she said. "That steering committee will come together to identify what components, within the context of Surrey, will be within that court, whether that's domestic violence … or drugs or mental health."

For some, the announcement fell flat. Bruce Ralston, the NDP MLA for Surrey-Whalley, called it "a re-announcement of what's already in the budget."

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"She's obviously facing a political timetable," said Mr. Ralston. Last month, Mr. Ralston, party leader Adrian Dix and other Surrey MLAs proposed what they called a "Surrey Accord," a list of proposals to fix some of the problems in the city. "It's not getting at the root causes. The accord has a number of elements to it – more policing, the issue of tackling recovery houses, mental health, community court. I don't think we'll get it done with announcements at the municipal level."

Growing community concerns about crime in Surrey were crystallized in late December with the fatal beating of Julie Paskall, 53, while she was waiting to pick up her son from a hockey game at Newton Arena.

Members of the Newton Community Association held a public meeting to brainstorm solutions, which included an increased police presence and bike patrols. However, Doug Elford, a spokesman for the association, said Friday's announcement did not contain enough specifics to allay worries.

"What we really want to know is: How does it apply to our neighbourhood?" he said. "There's talk of additional police, but we want to know the details. Recent statistics say [Newton is] the worst for serious crime in Surrey. We think we should get better treatment."

While there were no details in Friday's announcement specific to Newton, Bill Fordy, Chief Superintendent of the Surrey RCMP detachment, said there are "no immediate plans" to cut back on increased patrols in the area that followed Ms. Paskall's death.

Mr. Elford said he will seek specifics at the association's next public meeting on Saturday. Ms. Watts, Chief-Supt. Fordy, Mr. Ralston and other officials are expected to attend.

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Follow me on Twitter: @AndreaWoo

Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail

A mother remembered

Joan Ross, Julie Paskall’s sister-in-law, places a photograph of her during a candlelight vigil at Holland Park in Surrey, B.C., on Jan. 18, 2014. Julie Paskall died on Dec. 31, 2013, days after being brutally assaulted while waiting in Newton Arena parking lot to pick her son from hockey.
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About the Author
News reporter

Based in Vancouver, Andrea Woo is a general assignment reporter with a focus on multimedia journalism. More


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