Jan 14 2014
SURREY - As police keep searching for the killer of Surrey hockey mom Julie Paskall, the contrast between the city’s crime rate and its understaffed police force becomes more glaring.
Surrey has one of B.C.’s highest crime rates, but ranks just 31st in the province when it comes to police officers per capita.
Vancouver had six homicides in 2013, while Surrey had 25. In 2012, Vancouver had a Crime Severity Index of 103.4, while Surrey’s severe-crime rate was 129.9.
Yet according to 2012 Statistics Canada data, Vancouver had 202 police officers per 100,000 population, while Surrey had just 137 cops for same population sample.
Add it all up and Surrey had more than 300 per cent more murders and 25 per cent more severe crime, but 47 per cent fewer cops per capita than Vancouver.
It’s not a reassuring picture for Surrey residents shocked by the unsolved beating death of Paskall, bludgeoned outside the Newton Recreation Centre in an apparently random robbery attempt on Dec. 29.
Other B.C. cities with less crime but more cops per capita than Surrey include New Westminster, West Vancouver, Delta, Port Moody, Victoria, Kamloops, Nanaimo, Central Saanich, Squamish, Vernon, Nelson, Castlegar, Kitimat and Trail.
How did Surrey end up so far down the list of police resources? By failing to hire enough cops, according to the city’s own official plan.
“Ensure police resources keep pace with population growth,” reads a key recommendation in the Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy, endorsed by city council in 2006.
The report calls on the city to “continue its commitment to allocate resources to police services in proportion to the city’s overall growth as a minimum of one officer to every 700 residents or better.”
The city is 45 officers short of that goal, noted Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode.
“I think it’s time to review our targets,” she told the Surrey Leader.
Mayor Dianne Watts admits the city has struggled to meet demands of a booming population.
“It’s been a challenge keeping up with the growth,” Watts said. “I can always use more police officers.”
But she noted the city already devotes half its budget to public safety and “police costs have been escalating.”
It would cost another $6.75 million a year to beef up Surrey’s RCMP detachment to the strength recommended in the city’s own plan.
The patchwork of unevenly distributed police services throughout the region cries out for police-force amalgamation.
Communities such as Delta — with 65 per cent less crime and eight per cent more cops than Surrey — are not likely to surrender the superior services they enjoy.