It took only three days last summer to move nearly 200 homeless people off the Whalley strip in Surrey and into either shelters or temporary housing, and it came off without a hitch.
According to an RCMP officer who still works in the area, the success of that massive move flows from years earlier when the Mounties rolled out a different policing model than the old arrest-and-release system.
Sgt. Trevor Dinwoodie says the key was establishing trust with the community and putting an end to criminalizing the addicted.
“A lot of people who are street-entrenched look at the police as the enemy. They see us as coming down there to put them in jail, arrest them,” he said.
But the police established a relationship with the people, who eventually started to call officers by their first names, he said. As the officers and the people in the community learned about each other’s families, they built up trust, he said.
“If I said something, I stuck by my word and that really got us to that next point where we needed to be, in order to help these people and facilitate that move.”
Dinwoodie and the Surrey Outreach Team are still based on 135 A Street.
It was launched in early 2017 and is comprised of 18 officers.
He says the team is now doing more outreach across the city and is going to other homeless encampments to again establish relationships with the hope of getting the people connected with resources.