Surrey police transition from RCMP will mean belt-tightening in other areas – Vancouver Sun

Surrey police transition from RCMP will mean belt-tightening in other areas - Vancouver Sun
Surrey RCMP say three people deported in connection to brawl caught on video
Staff note that establishing the Surrey Police Department will prevent the city from hiring any new firefighters.

The cost of transitioning from the RCMP to a municipal police force in Surrey will put a lid on resources for fire protection, city services, and support for recreation and the arts in the coming years.

The release says not all of the violent incidents involved international students, but police also issued a reminder that individuals visiting Canada on a visa can be removed from the country if they engage in any criminal activity.

City staff note that establishing the Surrey Police Department will prevent the city from hiring any new firefighters, despite a recent review that identified “known pressures on the system.” No new police officers will be hired in 2020 either, according to the draft five-year plan.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum recently referred to the two videos circulating online that showed groups of men attacking each other and vandalizing cars, saying police need to take strong action.

3 suspects to be deported from Canada after series of Surrey assaults

“There is a hiring freeze in place across all departments during this budget cycle,” she said. “Whether it’s much-needed police officers or firefighters, we’re not keeping up as our city continues to grow, and this budget proves it.”

Surrey will instead spend $700,000 on a police-transition project office and $25.2 million on costs associated with the new municipal police force in 2020. Additional operating and one-time costs associated with the transition are estimated to be $130 million over five years.

"We want to assure the community that our Community Response Unit has been actively engaged in this issue for the past eight months," said Superintendent Shawn Gill.

Surrey will spend about $162 million on police services from the RCMP in 2019, plus $24 million for civilian support costs for a total of $186 million, according to the Surrey police transition plan. Those figures include a 10 per cent federal subsidy on RCMP contract costs, offsetting revenues, such as traffic fines, and provincial tax exemptions.

By 2022, with the RCMP contract off the books, the city is expecting to pay $205 million annually for policing costs, according to the draft budget. Annis is concerned that the municipal force is projected to cost about 10 per cent more than the RCMP contract and will put fewer officers in the field.

"These deportations were as a direct result of some of the investigation that was done into that fight," said Surrey RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturko.

“Moving ahead with the Surrey Police Department is quite frankly sucking the life out of all the other infrastructure projects in the city,” said Annis.

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.

About 1,000 people move to Surrey each month, many of them families that need recreation facilities to provide healthy activities for their kids, she said.

Sturko said police were working in conjunction with the Canada Border Services Agency. The status of three other individuals is still being reviewed.

The city’s plan for $850,000 in capital spending on the arts over the next five years is “disastrous,” according to Ellie King, managing artistic director of the Royal Canadian Theatre Company.

The most recent incident involved video of an assault with a weapon and vandalism to property which occurred in a Newton parking lot on Nov. 11.

“What is frustrating is that all that money is already spoken for,” she said. “We are left with only one viable performing arts space in the city.”

In a Tuesday news release, police say they have been making progress on the cases that have been described as mob violence.

More than 5,000 people helped create a 10-year plan for parks, recreation and culture that called for “more arts festivals, more arts education, more arts support spaces,” she said.

“That comes directly from the people of Surrey,” said King, a recipient of the Surrey Mayor’s Award as a cultural ambassador. “This draft budget does not reflect the will of the people.”

Surrey Coun. Linda Annis outside Cloverdale Arena, which community proponents say is in desperate need of replacement. Francis Georgian / PNG

A new community centre in Grandview Heights and a $45-million ice arena planned for Cloverdale have been postponed. The budget calls for $50,000 to “conceptualize” the Cloverdale arena next year and $10 million for the project in 2024.

“We aren’t very hopeful that anything will come from the 2024 budget item,” said Mike Bola, president of the Cloverdale Community Association. “It looks like (Mayor Doug McCallum) took $45 million from us to put toward his police project.”

The $10-million commitment isn’t enough to pay for even a single new sheet of ice, he said. Plus, the arena was built in 1972 and in need of replacement.

Surrey will go ahead with a $10-million park and field complex at Grandview Heights and spend $6 million for new fields at Tamanawis Park, both beginning in 2021. A handful of artificial field replacements and a cricket pitch are due to be funded in 2022.

Two large capital projects will be completed in the coming year, including a $7-million athletics centre at Bear Creek Park and a $45-million library, recreation and arts centre in Clayton.

Mike Bola, president of the Cloverdale Community Association at planned site of the Cloverdale Arena. Arlen Redekop / PNG

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Surrey RCMP says three people have been deported amid investigations into at least two brawls captured on video in the Newton area.

Police said they’d been “actively engaged” in the issue, and were looking into 50 people involved in the large groups of youth, some of them allegedly international students, seen in the videos.

READ MORE: Surrey ‘mob violence’ caught on video leads to RCMP investigation, mayor calls for action

According to police, the first video involved a fight in the parking lot of a strip mall in Strawberry Hills in August. The second video showed an assault with a weapon and other mischief in a parking lot early in the morning hours of Nov. 11.

Mounties say their Community Response Unit has been working on public safety concerns involving youth congregating, drinking and fighting in the Strawberry Hills area since March.

Police say their Diversity and Indigenous Peoples Unit was also working with local international student associations to provide education and prevention information.

“While not all of these incidents involve international students, law enforcement officials want to remind individuals who are visiting Canada on a Visa that any engagement in criminal activity violates the condition of their Visa and they could be removed from Canada as a result,” said Surrey RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturko in a media release.

Ashiana Khań, a talk radio host with internet Indian radio station Media Waves Communication, is hosting a public forum on the violence in the neighbourhood Tuesday night.

She said she wants to see more action from police, and stricter vetting of international students coming to Canada.

“During the last few weeks there have been some videos which are going viral on social media, which is very concerning to see, and now our Canadian born kids are questioning it,” she said.

Khań said she was pleased to hear that police had made progress on the Strawberry Hills mall incident, but the more recent brawl was still a concern.

She said she hopes the public turns out Tuesday night to voice their concerns to police and government leaders, and to push for more enforcement.

The viral videos of the brawls caught the attention of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, who last week issued a statement calling them repugnant” and a risk to the public.

McCallum said he wants to see the RCMP take “immediate and strong action to get a handle on this kind of mob violence that is occurring far too frequently in Surrey.”

In the wake of the brawl at the Strawberry Hills mall, Mounties said they stepped up patrols in the area, calling it a “hotspot” for violent behaviour.

On Tuesday, police said in addition to the three people who had been deported, police were reviewing the status of three others.