Residents expressed concerns about lighting in a number of parks around North Delta. (Grace Kennedy photo)

North Delta residents concerned about park safety after April sex assault

On May 9, residents were updated on a local sex assault and the DPD’s preventative measures

At a community meeting on Wednesday (May 9), around 40 residents came out to discuss a sexual assault that took place in North Delta back in April.

The meeting was organized by the Delta police to share updates on the investigation with community members, and hear their concerns about the incident.

“There is a community concern we want to be able to answer,” Delta police chief Neil Dubord said at the meeting. “People expressed that they had lost some sort of confidence in being able to go to Sunbury Park, being able to enjoy the great quality of life they do in this particular neighbourhood … We wanted to be able to come and clarify so you can get the best information possible.”

The sexual assault took place in the early hours of April 12, as a woman was walking along the path near Sunbury Hall. She was forced to the ground and assaulted, but was able to break free.

RELATED: Delta police release composite sketch of sex assault suspect

At the meeting, members of the police department explained that the investigation is still ongoing. Interviews with the victim and witnesses had been completed, and a composite drawing for the suspect has been created.

The drawing was distributed earlier that day to the media and, after a comment from a community member, may also be shared with the daycare located near Sunbury Hall.

According to Leeson, the investigation is still to early to say whether the suspect lived in the area or was just passing through. Although the drawing was shared with other police forces, there have been no leads so far.

“We currently don’t have a person of interest in this, we’re actively pursuing that,” Insp. Guy Leeson said. “The composite drawing is one avenue of investigation … We had done forensic examinations, obviously we’re pursuing that as well.

“Some of that take time, we’re dealing with labs and forensic labs, “he continued. “We’re hoping that one of these avenues is going to generate evidence that will lead us to a suspect and allow us to hold the person that did this accountable.”

The police department and representatives from the City of Delta also shared preventative measures that are now in place around Sunbury Hall to help stop incidents like this from happening in the future.

There has been an increased police presence in the area around Sunbury, as a deterrent for criminals and also as support for concerned residents.

Park improvements were also a key part of increasing safety around the park, and something the city had a large role in. This is part of a procedure called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

There are recommendations to use brush cutting help improve sight lines on park pathways, to reduce the chance of someone sneaking up on a potential victim, as well as improve parking and increase lighting around the park. Closed circuit cameras have already been installed by the city around Sunbury Hall.

“If we have to cut down trees to improve sight lines and stuff, people will say ‘Oh, you’re ruining the environment,’” Delta’s director of parks, recreation and culture Ken Kunz said. “Well I can tell you that from our perspective, safety always wins. We will not compromise cutting down a tree in favour of making it unsafe.”

Increasing legitimate activity in the park was also an avenue the city took to help prevent crime at Sunbury. The Delta Firefighter’s Association is moving into Sunbury Hall, and a daycare in the area has proved to help reduce crime, Kunz said.

“What we find in parks is the more activity, legitimate activity that happens in parks, the less likely you’re going to have … undesirable behaviours,” he said.

The rest of the meeting was dominated by a question and answer period, where residents could ask questions or share concerns about the incident.

Most residents commented on the need for more lighting in areas like the park around Sunbury hall, but also other parks and walkways in North Delta. Some also commented on the need for brush clearing and police patrols in similar places.

A few residents asked for more details on the investigation, which the police department could share without compromising the victim’s privacy or the investigation.

One resident commented on the shooting that happened on Friday, May 4, and asked if the police had been noticing a trend in more violent crime in that area.

RELATED: Police respond to shooting in North Delta

“When we were planning this meeting and we were talking about it last week, it was about [the sexual assault],” Supt. Harj Sidhu said. “Sure enough Friday night, we get the phone call about the shooting and we go, ‘Okay, this meeting is going to change.’”

However, he said, when it comes to the violent crime the DPD analysis showed it was mostly domestic assaults and crime between people who were known to each other.

“From a perspective of crime escalating in that area, it’s not there right now — unless you’ve noticed something different from what we’ve seen in our analysis,” he told the resident.

Residents left with a copy of the composite drawing of the suspect. Anyone with information about the suspect of the sexual assault is asked to call the Delta police at 604-946-4411, and refer to file number 2018-7710.

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