Premier Clark fails in her basic duty to public safety in Surrey

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John Horgan Premier Designate, B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan Leader, BC New Democrats
John Horgan
Leader, BC New Democrats

Attempted murders, assaults, sexual assaults, robberies, even kidnappings – no community should have to endure these kinds of horrific crimes. And yet this violence continues to rise in one of B.C.’s largest cities.

The numbers released by the Surrey RCMP detachment earlier this month paint a grim picture – a 40 per cent increase in violent crime over the previous year, including a near-tripling of attempted murders.

My friends and colleagues in Surrey don’t need a spreadsheet to tell them what’s happening outside their homes, their schools and their businesses. They see the gun violence and the gang violence first-hand. They hear about people in their community being attacked in their own homes in broad daylight. They know that Strawberry Hill Elementary School and a nearby home were struck by gunfire in September.

By any reasonable measure, this a public safety crisis. The people of Surrey deserve the full attention and maximum effort of their government to stop this violence. Unfortunately, the response from Premier Christy Clark has been woefully inadequate. While the premier and her attorney general have been happy to drop in for photo opportunities, they have failed to take real action on the most urgent issue this region faces.

I have repeatedly called on Premier Clark to act. She should immediately request that the RCMP redeploy its officers into Surrey to restore safety, set up a task force to address the city’s gang violence, and finally deliver on the often-repeated, still-unfulfilled promise of putting 100 more officers on the streets.

These are immediate steps that the premier could take today. But that’s just a start.

Ever since Julie Paskall’s shocking murder outside Newton Arena, New Democrat MLAs in Surrey – Sue Hammell, Harry Bains and Bruce Ralston – have been working to develop a long-term solution to street violence in Surrey. We have worked in collaboration with educators, police, community leaders and other levels of government.

It’s called the Surrey Accord, and we continue to reach out to Premier Clark and her colleagues to support it.

Clearly the first priority must be to increase the number of police officers on our streets. But we also need to address crime prevention, and make sure that families and teachers have the resources and supports they need to intervene if they see a young person heading down the wrong path.

Surrey needs a community court, a proven model that has reduced harm in the City of Vancouver and helped offenders fix their ways before they’re swept up into a gang life for good.

The provincial government needs to move aggressively back into the regulation of recovery houses. Many facilities do important work in addictions recovery. However, unscrupulous and predatory operators continue to cause problems for Surrey neighbourhoods.

Surrey needs an affordable housing strategy and a mental health. Everyone in Surrey knows that gangs prey on people trapped in poverty, often with untreated mental health. Helping these people is not only the right thing to do, it’s an essential part of ending street violence.

Federal, provincial, and local governments must work together. We must give the police and the courts the resources they need, but we cannot ask law enforcement to deal with complex social problems alone. These challenges require resources, cooperation, and above all, political will.

Keeping people safe is the first and most important duty of government, and it’s clear that today, Premier Clark’s government is failing the people of Surrey.