SURREY Councillor Linda Hepner said Thursday that if Councillor Barinder Rasode’s public safety platform looks familiar, it’s because it is.
It’s called the Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy which has been in place since 2007, is almost 90 per cent complete and was developed with input from more than 100 community agencies and organizations. The only real difference is that Rasode’s version will spend $8 million to put 200 well-intentioned, but inexperienced, citizens on the street, creating a danger to themselves and the community, she added.
“I really had to look at her plan twice to see what, if anything, was different from our existing crime prevention strategy that is already in place and well on its way to being completed as we speak,” said Hepner. “In addition, the public safety liaison position she mentions is something that’s already in the works. The city manager and the chief of police in Surrey are already working on final details regarding the position, in order to coordinate public safety under one umbrella. I’ve also had discussions with the chief of police regarding the establishment of a devoted petty crime unit, to deal with those crimes that negatively impact people and communities.”
“It takes $140,000 to hire, train and equip an RCMP officer. $8 million works out to hiring people at minimum wage, and doesn’t cover the associated operating costs for each officer,” said Councillor Tom Gill, Chair of the city’s Finance Committee. “That’s not professional policing, and it’s not what we need.”
Hepner said Rasode’s plan to hire 200 so-called community safety officers/security guards is dangerous, and takes resources away from professional policing.
“The ideas put forward by Councillor Rasode are little more than the regurgitation of our current award winning policies,” said Hepner. “She was the chair of the city’s Police Committee for three-and-a-half years, with little accomplished under her watch. There was an inability to work with the professionals, the RCMP, that put their lives on the line every day for us. Mayor Watts eventually relieved her of those duties, and that’s when improvements finally started to happen. Why would we believe she has all the answers now?
“Today we have 768 police officers in Surrey, with another 30 on the way this year. Our district police model is working, and I’m committed to extending that by adding another 100 officers on the ground over the next 24 months. Today, we’re spending $123 million on policing, that’s $54 million more than in 2005, and we’ll continue to invest what it takes to keep our city safe.”
Hepner said Surrey needs real police, not the inexperienced citizens Rasode would put on city streets, individuals who could become a danger to themselves and the community.
“The people she’s talking about are not trained police officers,” said Hepner. “They have no more authority to do anything than you or me, and with just a few weeks of very basic training, Policing is serious business and it needs to be handled by professionals. That’s why I want more police, and I want them now, and I want them on the ground in the communities they serve”
Hepner also said it’s critical that the city, province and federal government work with the city and community to tackle the root causes of many crimes, because policing alone isn’t enough. She says re-establishing a facility to care for people with mental health difficulties is a priority, in an effort to address the root causes of crime.
“Ask any police officer in the country and they’ll tell you that on many days they feel more like a social worker than a police officer,” said Hepner. “Mental illness, addiction, poverty and homelessness are common threads in the lives of many criminals. In fact, it is the same in every city, big or small, right across the province and the country. If we don’t deal with those issues by working with the community and the other levels of government, our courts simply become a revolving door. So, when I hear someone say they’ve got a simple solution to public safety, I say there’s no such thing. It may not be the political answer, but it’s the truth, and I think that’s what our citizens want to hear. Anyone who wants to be mayor of Surrey and says they’ve got a simple solution to policing, crime and public safety isn’t being honest with our citizens.”