At age 66, John Edwards insists he not be called sir. That was an honourific more befitting his father, he says.
Edwards, a former health professional and businessman, says crime and its root causes form the number-one issue in Surrey.
First and foremost, he says, is the out-of-control problem of drug addiction.
“I feel that we must do something about the high level of drug usage, and therefore drug addiction in Surrey, if we’re going to do anything meaningful about crime reduction,” Edwards says.
Other contributing factors to criminal activity are poverty and homelessness, where people feel they need to break into homes and cars to survive.
Mental illness is key culprit.
“I believe that 40 per cent of all people with drug addictions have a mental illness,” Edwards says. “Therefore the incidence of crime is fairly high among people with mental illness.”
Creating activities for the large number of youth in in Surrey will also reduce some of the more petty crimes, he says.
He believes a community court would help deal with the “tertiary” problems of crime. It would get offenders into treatment or rehab much more quickly.
He believes the region needs a much better way of helping people with mental illness.
In addition, social services and housing will help people get back on their feet and out of the criminal lifestyle.
“Now, let me say this, we will never get rid of crime, so it’s foolish for people to say ‘we’re going to eliminate it’,” Edwards warns. “We can reduce it, but as a city, we’re always going to have some criminal activity going on.”
He wants to see “massive” education in schools to prevent kids from getting involved in gang activity.”
He wants to hire retired cops right away so Surrey doesn’t have to wait for new RCMP recruits to go through training.
He also wants to strengthen police shifts on weekends when the needs are greater.
Edwards also wants more prevention and education programs for the public about how to keep thieves from breaking into homes and cars. That education would be delivered by way of public service announcements.
He believes a lack of viable transportation is the second greatest issue facing this city and that Surrey needs to have a better relationship with TransLink.
“It’s my plan to have a Surrey Transportation Authority,” a group of experts that would analyze and present to TransLink the transit needs of Surrey.
He says the city currently has a very disjointed system of transit that needs better planning.
Edwards wants to see subways.
“You look at London and Sydney, and instead of putting all that concrete structure in the environment, you just put them below ground and use (above-ground) space for other things,” Edwards says.
His third priority is youth engagement. He wants to see children, teens and young men and women involved in city life at all levels.
That includes how the city is managed, crime and its origins, and education.
“I feel we are missing the boat when we don’t engage them,” he says.
He also wants to see a third university in Surrey, which he envisions as an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)-type facility.