It’s a provincial responsibility because it transcends the different municipalities

BY RATTAN MALL

 
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Dr. Robert Gordon Photo courtesy Scrivener Magazine)

 

SORRY, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, but “striking a task force with the Surrey RCMP on drug and gang activity and the contributing factors of homicide” will really be of little help.
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“This is a regional issue. It is not an issue that is narrowed to a particular municipality however large it may be. And until such time as there is a regional approach to it, when we look at the whole thing from the point of view of Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley, you won’t really have a clue about what exactly is going on,” Simon Fraser University’s School of Criminology Director Dr. Robert Gordon told Asian Journal on Wednesday.

Following Surrey’s 22nd homicide of the year on Monday that set a new homicide record for the City, Watts announced her decision to set up the task force.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team on Thursday identified the victim as Mark Winston Berry, who was “known to police and had an extensive criminal record dating back to 1987.”

IHIT Sht. Jennifer pound said: “He was known to occasionally stay at the residence where he was found but was not a full time tenant of the home.”

His body was located on a property in the 12000-block of 99 Avenue just after 8 a.m. on November 18.

Pound added: “An autopsy was completed which has confirmed that foul play was a factor in his death.” She said the cause of death would not be revealed at this stage.

Also on Thursday, Pound said that the victim of the deadly home invasion on November 9 at a residence in the 2600 block of King George Boulevard in Surrey, has been identified as Corey Bennett, 44, who “was known to police for his significant ties to the drug trade.”

Watts said that the task force “will look at the spikes in homicides in Surrey that have occurred every four years: in 2005 at 21 homicides, 2009 at 20, and 22 in 2013. It will look at streamlining policing resources, including looking at the effects of mental health, identifying drug houses, reviewing our CCTV program and examining our policing service delivery model.”

She added: “Together with the Surrey RCMP, school district, and crime analysts, we will identify strategies to prevent people from engaging in a gang and drug lifestyle and to disrupt this activity in our community.”

And Surrey RCMP Officer-in-Charge Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy came up with the same old platitude: “Any homicide is of great concern to us at the Surrey RCMP.  I must advise people who associate with those in a criminal lifestyle that your enabling behaviour could lead to tragic consequences. For those who choose to engage in criminal behaviour, we want you to know that you are not welcome in Surrey and that if you choose to embrace the criminal lifestyle you will end up dead or in jail. I have no doubt that the results of the Mayor’s Task Force will enhance our abilities to address these issues.”

 

HOLISTIC APPROACH NEEDED

 

GORDON noted that Watts pointed out that there appears to be spikes in homicides in Surrey every four years.  He added: “Well, yes, that’s right. And she goes on to say the spikes appear to be related to drugs and violent crime relating to drugs. Yes, that’s right. We know that. It’s not rocket science that Surrey has become for the time being once again the centre of a great deal of the illegal drug trade in Metro Vancouver, and until it’s understood as a problem for the whole of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, it’s not going to change.”

Gordon said: “They will spend a bunch of money on this, a bunch of time. I assume that the people out at the University of the Fraser Valley are getting some funding to do this research that they are going to do, but it’s a futile exercise if it’s not taking a holistic approach to it.

“This is nothing to do with kids in schools and juvenile gangs on the streets. It’s about the illegal drug trade and how that’s structured and how it operates and how the conflicts within that industry are played out. At the moment they are playing out in Surrey, but five years ago they were playing out in Abbotsford and even before that they were playing out in Vancouver, and so it goes on.”

Gordon pointed out that this is a really good example of a provincial responsibility because it’s transcending the different municipalities – it’s a regional issue.

He added: “Metro Vancouver region is not capable of handling this at least in part because the police services in the area are not amalgamated. If this was Toronto [which has a single police force], for example, they’d be able to analyze everything on a standard basis from one particular location like the headquarters of the police service. They’d analyze it, conduct the analysis on a continuing basis where they wouldn’t be hit with sudden surprises – which aren’t surprises at all really.”

 

FOCUSSING JUST ON SURREY IS WRONG

 

TALKING about Surrey’s approach to crime, Gordon said: “Question marks have to be raised about a couple of things. Number one is whether or not the much vaunted crime reduction strategy that Surrey adopted has in fact worked. I think they were a bit quick to celebrate the early successes – and I was amongst the people who said ‘good on you for doing it.’

“But quite clearly there were some larger issues that weren’t addressed by the crime reduction strategy, one of which couldn’t be, in my view, addressed by crime reduction strategy that was focussed entirely on Surrey. That obviously hasn’t worked to the extent they thought it would, but then I am not sure that it was ever intended to address the issue of the illegal drug trade. I think it was more about crime generally in Surrey. Obviously the early successes seem to have been reversed.”

He added: “The second issue is the playing out of the strategy that was supposed to have been developed as a result of the last task force which was all about the consequences of having the illegal drug trade centred in Surrey.  But obviously what they tried to do there didn’t work and now they are conveniently ignoring that fact by creating another task force.”

Gordon also pointed out: “I think the people in Surrey can be rightly confused by what’s going on because I am not sure that the folks in Surrey know themselves what’s going on and I don’t know that putting together this task force is going to actually make much difference because it is again focussing its efforts entirely on what’s happening inside the municipality. It is certainly naïve to be thinking that that’s the answer. It’s not. It’s a region-wide issue.”

 

VESTED INTERESTS

 

WHEN I asked Gordon about the government’s lack of action on this issue, he said: “The provincial government obviously doesn’t treat crime and punishment as a great priority and it certainly is not, I think, terribly interested in policing issues.”

He said the problem is, at least in part, that it’s the same people who have vested interests in the status quo doing the work.

He added: “So they are going to come up with exactly the same answers – it’s all very, very predictable. A lot of it has to do with people trying to preserve their jobs. There isn’t really any interest in making any difference or introducing any change. So they go through the motions because there is no money to do anything else or supposedly even though you’d have thought that a really good approach here would be to see what can be done better regardless of the politics of police reform and regardless of the needs and interests of particular municipalities, most of which are posturing now as they hurtle towards the next election which is November of next year.”