For anyone who has lived in the lower mainland for the last five to 10 years or more, it is well known that Surrey has a bad reputation. When we think serious crime and gang activity, Surrey somehow always springs to mind. Upon closer inspection, do the stats really reveal that crime in Surrey is worse than elsewhere in the lower mainland?
According to an in-depth Maclean’s report late last year on the most dangerous places in Canada, Vancouver sits much higher than Surrey on its crime severity index ranking when it comes to violent crime, and to a lesser degree even when it comes to all crime.
“It’s the size of Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby combined. The population is going to outpace Vancouver in 20 years.”
Those are the words of Dwayne McDonald, Surrey’s top cop and the assistant commissioner for Surrey RCMP, who joined the Lynda Steele Show on 980 CKNW to discuss the matters that are most pressing to Surrey.
Gangs were the first point of conversation. Sgt. Mike Sanchez with the Surrey gang enforcement team also took part in the discussion.
Gang activity has always been a focus of conversation when it comes to crime in Surrey. Homicide rates went up 25 per cent in 2018 versus the previous year. Fifteen homicides were recorded in Surrey in 2018, up from 12 in 2017. This includes the death of Paul Bennett, who was the victim of mistaken identity.
McDonald also took calls from the CKNW listeners. One call, in particular, was connected personally to McDonald. The caller asked why certain investigations for murders end up going nowhere, and no one gets caught and blamed for these heinous crimes. McDonald immediately knew what the caller was referring to:
“He’s referring to the murder of Paul Bennett, and the recent murder in Fraser Heights near my parents’ home.”
When he referred to the proximity of a murder near the home of his family, you could sense the passion and concern in his voice, that this crime took place so close to where his family lives. But it seemed bigger than that, that this could’ve caused harm to any family caught in the crossfire of senseless violence. He went on to say that investigations are complex, and identifying a culprit is the easy part. But gathering the evidence to pin a conviction on the culprit is not so easy.
The next, and probably most controversial point of conversation was that of the transition from Surrey RCMP to Doug McCallum’s municipal police force, currently known as the Surrey Police Department.
There was a clip played for McDonald from the ‘state of the city’ address where Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum spoke. After listening intently, with much focus to the words of the Surrey Mayor, he said the mayor’s plan seemed ambitious:
“It’s really up to the model of policing that they propose, but I would be very interested to see those numbers.”
McCallum said at the address that he hopes to have the force active by July 2020. In a strange turn, a car was spotted recently sporting Surrey police decals and paint, which stirred up some controversy.
Finally, Steele and McDonald shared a conversation about the money laundering revelations that were released in the German Report. The RCMP has been under much scrutiny as information has slowly trickled out. McDonald did his best to provide insight into the challenge in dealing with these complex issues.
It is very clear that there are many issues to grapple with when it comes to crime in Surrey, particularly violent crime. Whether policing is the issue, or whether more work needs to be done with youth to keep them out of gangs, the next year will be an interesting one. With the Surrey Municipal Police force on the horizon, it remains to be seen whether things will get easier or more challenging in an unprecedented process of transition.
When asked by Steele if he would ever switch over to the Surrey Police force himself, McDonald’s response was simple and to the point:
“I bleed red.”