Opinion

COLUMN: It's time to clean up Newton

Newton was home to the most murders in Surrey last year, a fact that some of the big city media are headlining, given that the murder of Julie Paskall caught the imagination of people across Canada.

The random nature of the Dec. 29 attack on the hockey mom was also a factor in the level of interest in that horrific crime, and the fact that there have been no arrests also captures public attention.

However, the overall crime statistics for Surrey show that there are plenty of challenges in Newton. That’s why a community meeting to be held this Saturday is so important. People who live in Newton have to speak up and insist that all levels of government do more to keep them safe.

There needs to be changes in policing; in urban design; in the transit exchange and in attitudes. People in the community need to know that there is an effort to make their community safer, and that effort must continue even after Paskall’s killer is caught.

The federal government must also take a look at whether the Criminal Code is effective in dealing with many of the crimes that take place there.

As is the case in many parts of Canada, a large number of crimes are committed by a relatively small number of people. What is the best way to deal with these chronic offenders – for the good of the public, and for their own good?

The province can also play a role, notably in how it operates the court system. The Surrey courthouse is hopelessly overcrowded, and while the province has promised more new court rooms, they are a long ways away. Delays in dealing with cases often leads to many other problems.

All three levels of government need to show the community that they can work together to make Newton a better place. They can do so by making the changes that each is responsible for quickly, and by continuing to work together.

In 2013, Newton had the most sex assaults in Surrey, and 46 per cent of all abductions.

Meanwhile, violent crime fell in four of Surrey RCMP’s five districts, but in Newton it did not change. Newton and Whalley saw more than 2,100 offences in 2013.

That is a shocking statistic. It means that there were more than 2,000 reported incidents of violent crime in Newton, a large geographical area that has more people than any other RCMP district in Surrey – more than 135,000. Even with that many people, that is a large number of violent crimes. It is completely unacceptable.

The number certainly reinforces what many Newton residents have been saying – they do not feel safe on the streets, particularly at night, but now in many cases, also during the day.

To compare it to other areas of Surrey, South Surrey reported just 400 violent crimes, and Cloverdale and Port Kells had 527. Guildford and Fleetwood, closer geographically to Newton and Whalley, recorded 1,160.

The good news is that, in a fast-growing city like Surrey, Criminal Code offences rose just one per cent. The bad news is that it seems more and more of those offences are taking place in Newton.

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The Newton Community Association hosts a forum on public-safety issues and more on Feb. 15, 2-4 p.m., at Newton Recreation Centre, 13730 72 Ave.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

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