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Give us more boots on the ground, Surrey citizens say
More police, by way of foot and bike patrols; enhanced community policing; better communication with city workers and private companies; and closed circuit surveillance cameras were some of the main demands made by a spillover crowd at the Newton Seniors' Centre on Monday night.
The meeting was organized by the fledgling Newton Community Association (NCA) after the brutal slaying of hockey mom Julie Paskall at the Newton Arena last month. The killer remains at-large.
Police believe the attacker may also have assaulted a woman at the Newton Bus Exchange on Dec. 16, and asked the public to be extra vigilant when frequenting the area.
The crowd at Monday's meeting was made up of mostly seniors in the 125-seat room, and NCA spokesperson Doug Elford said about 300 people had to be turned away.
The event began with a moment of silence to remember Paskall.
One of the people who attended was Shilo Wishart, 21, (pictured left) who remembers Paskall as her babysitter.
"She was a woman, a friend and a loving person," Wishart told the crowd. "No one deserves this, I don't care who you are, you need to stand up and be a man. Do the right thing and turn yourself in."
Several people spoke at the meeting, including Karen Reid Sidhu, executive director of the Surrey Crime Prevention Society, Surrey RCMP Chief-Supt. Bill Fordy and Bob Campbell, a member of the neighbouring West Panorama Ridge Ratepayers Association.
Sidhu shared some of the successes and challenges experienced by her society. She noted volunteers don't go out after 6 p.m. in the winter, or 8 p.m. in the summer, saying it was for their own safety.
Fordy said the Surrey RCMP currently has two directives.
The first task is to get Paskall's killer off the street, and the longer-term goal is to make Newton a safer place for residents.
Campbell urged the crowd to form a strong ratepayers group.
"If you aren't a community association, you are individuals, and you will get the appropriate response," Campbell said. "Sign up, get involved – it makes an enormous difference."
The crowd then had its turn to speak, and generally, kept the comments focused on possible solutions.
One woman asked that a "walk safe" program be initiated so she could get safely to the bus stop from the civic buildings in the area.
Many others said the city needs more community policing initiatives.
"We don't need anyone else ruining our community to get that message," one woman said.
"Why isn't the Newton Community Policing Station open in the evening?" one man asked. "It seems only reasonable, seeing as most crime happens at night."
Many others said they see the crime taking place, but don't report it because they don't think anything will be done about it.
"Police officers, please do your job, don't tell us we're a pain in the butt," said one woman who recounted being told by a police officer she was a nuisance for continually reporting crimes.
"We're not trying to be (a pain), we're trying to be good citizens," she said.
Another man spoke of a visit to the community policing station to find seven police officers standing there not addressing him.
"It is not acceptable. I'm embarrassed to hear that," Fordy said, promising that would change.
Several others wanted something done about unregulated alcohol and drug recovery homes in the city.
Fordy said that is a regulatory issue that requires targeted enforcement through city bylaw officers.
Resident Laila Yuile asked why a crime mapping system on the RCMP website has been taken down.
Fordy was unaware of the previous mapping system, but said the RCMP is now having discussions about having such data made available to the public.
Fordy then recapped for the audience what he heard from them on Monday.
In terms of the RCMP, he noted that Newton wants to see more police; enhanced bike patrols; better community policing; an organized response to gang problems;community policing stations open longer hours; shared input with taxi companies and city workers; and better advertisements of the police non-emergency number.
Elford said it sounded like the police and city staff heard the concerns from the public, and it seemed they were ready to act on it.
He noted the NCA intends to hold them accountable. The next NCA meeting will include the mayor and council and will be held Feb. 15. Details of that meeting are still in the works.