Images of a tent city springing up on the “Whalley Strip” along 135A Street in Surrey have become familiar to the public when a Facebook video drew over 304,000 views after it was posted last week.
But the public is less familiar with other images from the scene — video that shows people vandalizing property in the area, going so far as to jump on vehicles and even steal them.
Coverage of tent cities on Globalnews.ca:
It’s a situation that Paul Chen, the owner of U-Haul dealer Centreline Auto Group, has had to confront after the tents sprang up starting in June of last year.
“Since last summer it just got worse,” he told Global News. “I’m done talking.”
Chen is one of a number of business owners in the area of 135A Street who say theft and vandalism has grown right along with the tent city, which is now believed to have as many as 150 people living there.
Four months ago, Chen said he made a citizen’s arrest after a colleague’s car was damaged.
Video he provided to Global News shows someone climbing up on to a car and jumping on the roof.
And that’s saying nothing of a surveillance video that shows people taking a lock box from the fence in front of his business and then driving off in a U-Haul truck.
“Sometimes as a human being, I get frustrated,” Chen said.
And he’s not alone.
Eddie MacNaughton owns Motorcycle World, another business nearby.
He’s been in business for almost two decades. But now, after $35,000 in vandalism, stolen property and lost profits in 11 months, he’s moving to another location.
“The RCMP are doing what they can do, the bylaws are doing what they can do, but the city has allowed these people to tent on public property,” MacNaughton told Global News.
“It’s the city’s responsibility.”
But removing the tent city is no simple matter, said Terry Waterhouse, the City of Surrey’s director of public housing.
“There’s impediments to legally removing them,” he said.
“Because in order for those to be removed legally, the housing resources and the support resources that individuals need have to be in place.”
Meanwhile, Chen has been left with a $30,000 bill from damages and lost profits.
He wants the city to do more.
“The city should step up, come to us and consult with us,” Chen said. “The bottom line, in the end, is like, this is how it is and we have to accept that.”