Surrey Chief Supt. Bill Fordy speaks at a community forum on crime held at Tamanawis Secondary School on Tuesday night.

Residents pack crime forum in Newton

The community should be concerned, top cop tells the crowd of more than 700, 'but they should not be fearful.'

More than 700 people packed into a Surrey high school for a forum on crime Tuesday night, an event scheduled as Surrey and North Delta grapple with 22 shootings in six weeks.

The most recent shooting on Sunday morning killed Arun Bains, the 22-year-old nephew of Surrey-Newton NDP MLA Harry Bains.

Prior to the start of the meeting, many people said they were looking for answers.

Naida Robinson was at the forum, held in the gymnasium of Tamanawis Secondary School at 66 Avenue and 126 Street, and she said she wants to see dedicated RCMP officers assigned to Newton. That way, crime files will remain consistent with the same officers.

Darlene Bowyer said she wants some assurance there will be a meeting of all levels of government, something she’s been requesting for some time.

Neither of those issues were brought up by speakers at the meeting.

Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said the recent spate of gun violence is keeping him up at night.

“Are we doing enough?” he said he’ll ask himself at night, adding the shootings are a priority for the Surrey RCMP

“Then I think about it a bit more and say ‘that’s not enough’.”

He said the Mounties need to better engage the community and when that happens, real progress will occur.

Fordy also said the community should be concerned – “but they should not be fearful.”

“The root causes of these shootings are drug use and drug trafficking,” Fordy told the largely South Asian crowd.

Mayor Linda Hepner said she’s devastated by the recent series of shootings.

“It pains me that a life has been lost around this senseless violence,” Hepner told the crowd. “It has to stop.”

Thirty-four new RCMP officers have arrived in Surrey, she said, and 100 more are on order for this year.

Speakers had varying opinions about how to make things better.

One woman said many people who come to Canada haven’t had a positive experience with police in their home country.

“That is a huge fear for them to report crime,” the woman said, adding police outreach could be used to educate people new to the country to assuage their fears.

A teenager said he knew most of the victims involved in recent shootings whose  photos were published in local papers. Their notoriety did not come as a surprise, he said.

He challenged all high school students at the event to write down the RCMP tip line (604-915-6566) and prepare to use it.

“Don’t think of it as snitching, think of it as saving someone’s life,” he said.

Gurpreet Saran expressed his grief over his son, Amritpal, whose body was found dumped on Colebrook Road two years ago.

He called for an end to the veil of silence preventing people from coming forward.

Jesse Sahota, who was formerly involved with a bad element, also addressed the crowd.

“I remember being called a gangster-wannabe when I was only 12 and 13 years old,” Sahota said. “There was a sense in me that I wanted to be a tough guy, I wanted to be the top dog.”

The turning point in his life was when he and his family reached out the the Surrey School District for help.

“In 2010, I graduated from this very school,” Sahota said of Tamanawis.

He has also graduated from Simon Fraser University.

“Today I’m very proud to say that I work with the Surrey School District and provide the same services that were provided to me in 2005.”

The event was also packed with politicians of every stripe.

Leader of the provincial NDP John Horgan was in attendance, as were several other politicians from various levels of government.

“I’m here to support the community, and I’m here to demonstrate to the public that the leader of the Opposition is as concerned about this as they are,” Horgan said before the meeting. “This is a provincial problem and it’s going to require provincial solutions.”