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Surrey Mountie talks for the first time about cleaning up the Whalley Strip

Click to play video: 'Tent city ready to pack up in Surrey' Tent city ready to pack up in Surrey
The City of Surrey and BC Housing are set to announce a request for homeless to pack up their belongings and vacate a tent city at 135 A Street. The province has built modular housing units at three sites close by but there are fears at least a few of the homeless will refuse to leave their tents. Paul Haysom reports – Jun 19, 2018

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.

READ MORE: Surrey to review role of Whalley Strip outreach team now that tent city is gone

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.

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Sgt. Trevor Dinwoodie of Surrey RCMP. Credit: Janet Brown / CKNW
Sgt. Trevor Dinwoodie of Surrey RCMP. Credit: Janet Brown / CKNW.

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.

READ MORE: Cleanup of ‘Whalley Strip’ not necessarily a quick fix for Surrey business owners

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.

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