Con­stituency Con­cerns: Sur­rey New­ton

Asian Journal - - Front Page - Ray Hud­son

A year ago, the Asian Jour­nal be­gan a se­ries of in­ter­views with the Mem­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture for the south Fraser con­stituen­cies, to step back from their wider pro­vin­cial per­spec­tives and have them fo­cus on the is­sues of their own con­stituen­cies. Our first fo­cus was on New­ton MLA Harry

Bains. So in our in­ter­view this year, we asked what had changed over the pre­vi­ous year?

Harry Bains:

When I was door-knock­ing and meet­ing peo­ple, crime was the num­ber one is­sue on peo­ple’s lips. If you don’t feel safe in your own home, in your neigh­bour­hood, or when you go to pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties, tran­sit, the park or tak­ing a stroll, go shop­ping or work in the busi­ness ar­eas, noth­ing else mat­ters in so­ci­ety. So I think se­cu­rity and safety in our own homes, safety and se­cu­rity of our chil­dren is of paramount im­por­tance to have a liv­able so­ci­ety. The Sur­rey Ac­cord was a com­pre­hen­sive work­able plan for which we re­ceived praise from all cor­ners, but it was re­fer­ring to a dif­fer­ent kind of crime than the gang vi­o­lence we are see­ing now. It was about the peo­ple who had un­der­ly­ing prob­lems such as ad­dic­tion and men­tal health is­sues and those are the peo­ple who com­mit­ted crime to feed their habits, and in many cases I’m told over 65% have both men­tal health and ad­dic­tion prob­lems. If we were able to ser­vice their prob­lems, and take even five or ten per­cent of them off the streets, that would be progress. We had a pro­posal to have all lev­els of govern­ment sit­ting to­gether, and law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties and pros­e­cu­tion sit down and look at all those is­sues and deal with all those pieces if we were to be suc­cess­ful. But since that time the prob­lem of gun vi­o­lence and the drug trade is in es­ca­la­tion. In the lower main­land over the last 20 years we have lost over 200 young men and women through gun vi­o­lence and the drug trade. Fi­nally the City de­clared that we needed 100 new po­lice of­fi­cers, that we needed to have more re­sources for po­lice to deal with those is­sues on a day to day ba­sis, put peo­ple in jail and do some pre­ven­ta­tive work. Fi­nally the peo­ple in the po­si­tions have rec­og­nized that it’s an epi­demic and we need to deal with it now.

Asian Jour­nal: I un­der­stand that by Fe­bru­ary they will have achieved the in­creased com­ple­ment of of­fi­cers on the ground in Sur­rey.

Harry Bains: I hope that that is true be­cause there are peo­ple leav­ing the force through at­tri­tion. We have of­fi­cers on sick leave, ma­ter­nity leave, hol­i­days, re­tire­ment, so the ques­tion is what is the net gain here? I would like to know. While ad­di­tional of­fi­cers are a ben­e­fit, it’s only one piece. If you look at the Sur­rey Ac­cord, we also have to deal with the is­sues around ad­dic­tion and men­tal health, we still haven’t dealt with the hun­dreds of un­reg­u­lated, so-called, re­cov­ery homes here in Sur­rey. Only about forty or fifty of those houses are reg­is­tered and work with Fraser Health. There are some good ones out there. I think the rest of them are for some­body to make money at the ex­pense of the most vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety. And those are the ar­eas where the crime is higher as well. So clearly the ev­i­dence is there, the facts are there, the will and courage to put re­sources be­hind th­ese is­sues is still lack­ing. Now, I re­fer you to a study, “The Value of Re­sources In Solv­ing Homi­cides,” by MLA Dar­ryl Ple­cas, who was study­ing crime and teach­ing crim­i­nol­ogy at the Univer­sity of the Fraser Val­ley prior to his elec­tion. It con­cluded that there was a dif­fer­ence be­tween the gang-re­lated homi­cides and the non-gang re­lated homi­cides. The for­mer are harder to solve for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. But even there, he said that when more re­sources were pro­vided to in­ves­ti­gat­ing teams for un­der­cover work, sur­veil­lance, wire­tap, in­ter­view and po­lice agents, the suc­cess rate was higher, but in most cases re­quests were de­nied be­cause of a claimed lack of re­sources. This leads to the next point. At a shade un­der 30% the suc­cess rate of solv­ing homi­cides in BC, es­pe­cially gang-re­lated, is the low­est in all of Canada. And this has been true for years, be­cause our in­ves­ti­gat­ing teams aren’t given the re­sources that they need. The mes­sage we are send­ing is, if th­ese bad guys go and kill some­body, they have a seventy per­cent chance noth­ing will hap­pen to them. The ma­jor pieces of the so­lu­tion, deal­ing with un­reg­is­tered re­cov­ery homes, im­prov­ing men­tal health, ad­dic­tion and a spe­cial­ized court to deal with it, ar en’t hap­pen­ing be­cause of in­ad­e­quate fund­ing. Not much progress there, and still we have shoot­ings.

Asian Jour­nal: With the econ­omy drop­ping, we aren’t likely to see more re­sources for some time.

Harry Bains: Like I said, if you’re not safe in your own home, your mil­lion dol­lar home or en­joy­ing your mil­lion dol­lar salary, it doesn’t mat­ter much. If you can af­ford it, you can move some­where else, and I hear all the time peo­ple say they are mov­ing out of here. But or­di­nary peo­ple can’t move. Be­sides, that’s not the way we want to leave our so­ci­ety.

The peo­ple de­serve bet­ter from our gov­ern­ments. Peo­ple pay taxes, obey the law and work hard and they de­serve at a min­i­mum, that the govern­ment pro­vide them with safe and se­cure neigh­bour­hoods. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, and I think in this, we’ve failed. Last year there were fifty-six shoot­ings, over one shoot­ing per week. Pick ten dif­fer­ent neigh­bour­boods be­tween the Fraser River and Num­ber Ten High­way. Peo­ple will tell you that if you wait for a while you’ll see a drug deal in plain view. When I ask them if they had phoned the po­lice, they say that all they get, in re­sponse, is a file num­ber and that’s the end of the story, be­cause the po­lice don’t have enough re­sources. I don’t blame the po­lice be­cause I be­lieve they are do­ing ev­ery­thing they can with what they have. But the drug deal­ers know that get­ting caught is a very un­likely, and there are no reper­cus­sions for their ac­tions. That in­vites more shoot­ings be­cause other drug deal­ers and gangs will see the area as a lu­cra­tive place to do busi­ness, and will move in. The only way for po­lice to deal with it, is to be on their tail as soon as they show up, and nip their ac­tiv­i­ties in the bud. Once you catch any one of them do­ing th­ese bad things, you need to deal with them quickly and im­pose a sen­tence that is a true de­ter­rence. Un­for­tu­nately, there is no de­ter­rence, there’s no proac­tive ap­proach to deal with those peo­ple with un­der­ly­ing prob­lems, so the prob­lems con­tinue. Now we’ve added one hun­dred new po­lice of­fi­cers, they will bring more crim­i­nals in for pros­e­cu­tion. But with­out more re­sources for the courts to han­dle the in­creased work­load, it could stall. Over the last two or three years we’ve seen a short­age of judges some­times re­sult­ing in cases be­ing thrown out be­cause of de­lays. I’m all for a bal­anced bud­get, but at what cost in this prov­ince? We are jeop­ar­diz­ing so many ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary ser­vices to sat­isfy a political agenda.

Photo: Ray Hud­son

Harry Bains, MLA New­ton

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