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Surrey residents to press for safety solutions after woman's death

A girl lays a a bouquet of flowers at the memorial for Julie Paskall outside the Newton Arena in Surrey, B.C., Jan. 2, 2013.

Ben Nelms/for The Globe & Mail

Residents of the Surrey neighbourhood shaken by the random, unprovoked fatal beating of a mother last week hope a community meeting will bring about long-called-for solutions on how to make the area safer.

The Newton Community Association had originally planned for a forum on safety with RCMP representatives in February but moved it up to Monday night, in place of its regular monthly meeting, in light of the fatal attack on resident Julie Paskall.

Speakers from the RCMP, Surrey Crime Prevention Society and the neighbourhood are expected to address and take questions from the public, said Doug Elford, a spokesman for the association.

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"It will be an opportunity for people to vent, but we're also going to be … looking for solutions for our problems in the neighbourhood," he said. "We can't just yell and scream; we have to come up with some answers."

The killing of Ms. Paskall, a 53-year-old mother of three who was waiting to pick up her son from a hockey game at the Newton Arena at the time of the Dec. 29 attack, has understandably shaken the residents of Newton. Many say the neighbourhood has declined over the years, blaming the "revitalization" of Whalley for pushing societal problems south to Newton.

Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode has said that the strategy for Newton is not working, citing a need to break up the cluster of social services – including recovery homes, slot machines and parole office – in Newton Town Centre.

"We're very fortunate: We have six distinct town centres," Ms. Rasode said. "That concentration of very valuable services – we need them in the community, but they don't all need to be concentrated here."

A new Welcome Home drug and recovery house, currently under construction, is something she has recently changed her mind on, she said.

"I've made some decisions I would [now] make differently. Welcome Home … I supported it, but, you know, now thinking about it, maybe not [at that location]."

When Jude Hannah moved to Newton nearly three decades ago, "it was like living in the country," she said. But over the years, she says the quality of living has declined. Both she and her husband have had their cars broken into. Drug dealing regularly occurs on her street corner.

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"It has become like a Downtown Eastside," she said. "When I spoke with Mayor [Dianne] Watts about a year and a half ago on the phone, I did say that to her. I said, 'It's a Downtown Eastside in the making,' and she said, 'Oh, it's not that bad.' I replied, 'Not yet, but all the signs are there.'"

Ms. Hannah, who has started a group called ReNewton, which calls for the revitalization of her neighbourhood, said she will attend Monday's meeting to call on the city to take more proactive measures to better the neighbourhood.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Newton Seniors Centre. There is capacity for 125 people, Mr. Elford said.

Meanwhile, Al Paskall, Ms. Paskall's husband of 34 years, has made a public plea for anyone who saw or heard anything related to the incident to contact police.

"Anything that helps put this person behind bars and get him off the streets so he doesn't do this to anybody else, please, please," he said in a tearful interview with Global News.

A trust fund has been opened at Vancity credit union to assist the Paskall family. Donations should be made to the Paskall Family Trust.

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Ms. Paskall's death, on New Year's Eve, marked Surrey's 25th homicide of 2013. Last month, Ms. Watts established a task force to tackle the issue. Among other measures, 49 police officers have since been redeployed to Newton and Whalley.

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


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