Surrey’s top cop is looking into the possibility of his detachment increasing community policing in Newton after hearing from impassioned residents at a public forum on crime and safety.
About 150 people filled an auditorium to capacity – and at least 100 others were turned away – for the meeting held by the Newton Community Association on Monday night. Before a panel of crime and safety officials, residents pleaded for more community policing initiatives such as bike and foot patrols to allay heightened fears after the random and unprovoked murder of resident Julie Paskall.
Ms. Paskall, a 53-year-old mother of three, was attacked while waiting to pick up her son from a hockey game at Newton Arena on Dec. 29 and died two days later. Her death, residents say, highlights the decline of Newton over the years and the urgent need to turn things around.
Several residents who spoke on Monday expressed frustration to Superintendent Bill Fordy over the lack of a visible police presence, particularly in “sketchy” areas. It is not enough to have an officer drive around, never getting out of his car, they said.
As well, residents said they found it difficult to share their concerns with RCMP. One said her calls to police were dismissed as nuisance calls; another said he entered a police station and not one of seven officers present would speak with him.
Meanwhile, the Newton Community Policing Station is not open at night. Volunteers with the Surrey Crime Prevention Society only patrol on select days and, even then, only during the afternoon.
Supt. Fordy, the officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP detachment and one of the guest speakers at the meeting, said afterward it was clear residents want more community-level policing and he will look at the resources available for it.
“I didn’t realize the significance of the bike patrol, how favourable that was with the community, so that was good to hear,” he said.
His number one priority, he said, is finding the person who killed Ms. Paskall.
Some speakers at the meeting raised the idea of Surrey having its own police force, or adopting a “no call too small” policy similar to that of the Delta Police Department. They spoke of the “broken windows” theory – the idea that cracking down on minor offences can forestall bigger crimes. It is model Delta Police Chief Jim Cessford swears by.
“I’ve often heard from police executives that they can’t do ‘no call too small,’” he said Tuesday. “To those people who say, ‘We can’t go that model,’ I say, ‘You can’t afford not to employ it. You have to go. You have to investigate each case on its own merit then employ problem solving initiatives.’”
Calls for service to Delta police have dropped to about 25,000 per year from 45,000 since the department implemented “no call too small” in 1995, Chief Cessford said.
He also supported the call by Surrey residents for increased bike patrols – something his department did after the September, 2010, murder of teenager Laura Szendrei in Delta’s Mackie Park.
“We put a mobile command post there, had coffee on all the time, put bike patrols in all of our parks,” he said. “That’s what the community wanted at that particular time. There was a sense of them being unsafe, so we had to provide them with the tools to keep them safe and give them that feeling of safety. The community has to have confidence in us.”
Meanwhile, as Monday’s meeting wound down, Cailean Paskall, 16, played his first hockey game with the Surrey Midget Thunder since his mother’s death. His father, Al, and sister, Rhiannon, kept time – one of many tasks his mother had long volunteered for. The teams observed a moment of silence before puck drop.
“He’s just trying to get back into a normal routine,” said Matthew Mikl, who cheered on his long-time friend at the North Surrey Arena Monday night. “He doesn’t want to let something like this completely change his life.”