Langley City beefs up security at Innes Corner
Incidents of drug dealing and loitering have become so prevalent at Innes Corner plaza that the City of Langley has decided to put nearly $90,000 toward beefing up security at the busy public square — including the installation of a video surveillance camera.
But one council member believes having more human eyes on the City’s downtown core is a better solution than installing a single electronic one.
Council voted unanimously on Monday night to improve both lighting and visibility at the plaza and fountain, which has become a hotbed for the sale of illegal drugs.
And the majority of council agreed that an even more drastic step needs to be taken to combat the steady growth of illegal activity in the public square.
Of the $86,000 total cost — which will be taken from the City’s Enterprise Fund — $45,000 will be used to install video surveillance in the square, located at the corner of Fraser Highway and Glover Road.
The remainder of the money will pay for new LED bulbs — to replace the current 20-year-old lighting — and to prune trees to improve sight lines around the plaza.
Innes Corner plaza is a prominent gateway to the City of Langley’s downtown core, said City CAO Francis Cheung.
However, from one week to the next, the City is noticing a steady increase in loitering and illegal activities, he said, adding that there is growing concern for public safety.
Both bylaw enforcement and police presence have been increased in the area, but further steps need to be taken, council decided.
The video surveillance camera will use infrared technology to produce clear images of people’s faces, even at night.
In response to a question by Councillor Jack Arnold, regarding the monitoring of the feed, Cheung replied that it would be looked at only if there was an incident.
“We can provide it to the RCMP,” he said, adding video will be available for about two weeks before being recorded over.
Councillor Rosemary Wallace said that while she is in favour of installing better lighting and pruning trees, she isn’t convinced more video surveillance is the answer.
“At this time, there is not enough information on what security cameras actually do,” she said.
“We’ve got security cameras at McBurney Lane and Douglas Park — now Innes plaza.
“What are police on bikes doing?”
“It comes down to availability and demand for police,” replied Cheung.
“We’ve asked the RCMP to increase patrols, but they can’t be there at all times. Video surveillance is there all the time and it acts as a deterrent — being monitored.”
“I think (police) resources are being overused in that area,” said Councillor Teri James, who relayed her own recent experience walking across Innes plaza.
“I was asked today if I wanted to buy drugs by a group of about 14 people — at two in the afternoon.”
When police arrive, they scatter and then re-congregate once the officers are gone, she added.
Acting mayor Ted Schaffer told council that he is very much in support of installing a surveillance camera at the plaza.
“They’re very, very helpful,” he said.
“It’s a deterrent. If it stops one or two, even minor incidents, it’s money well-spent.”
Speaking to The Times the following day about the problems at Innes Corner, Wallace remained unconvinced. She wondered aloud about the message that surveillance cameras send.
“What are we trying to create here, the impression we’re a totally unsafe city?
“We need to do more about public presence.”
One part of the solution, Wallace said, is to encourage the kinds of businesses — restaurants and pubs, for example — that tend to be open late, to locate in the downtown core.
She pointed to Vancouver’s Commercial Drive area as an example for the City to follow.
“There are all kinds of people there — that’s the way life is,” she said.
Wallace believes the City’s downtown merchants are doing what they can, but said it is up to developers to buy into the idea, and for people who are sitting on developable property to allow that land to be redeveloped.
“Make it exciting, make it a livable city and people will come.”