A Surrey councillor says residents are rightly concerned with the violence and rate of shootings in the city.
Over the weekend and Monday, Surrey rang up its 29th, 30th and 31st shootings so far this year, a rate of one every three days. It’s more than twice the frequency of last spring, when a violent turf war over a dial-a-dope operation unfolded in Newton.
On Monday, Surrey Coun. Tom Gill acknowledged the fears percolating in the community.
“I think the comments that we are hearing from the community are well founded, they are well-based, they are true, and I feel no different,” Gill said.
He noted the 100 police officers hired by the city last year – 93 of which have arrived – is an unprecedented investment in policing.
Despite the huge police presence, many residents say they are afraid to leave their homes in Newton because of the frequent gunfire in their neighborhood.
At a Friday press conference, prior to the weekend shootings, police announced there had been 28 confirmed gunfire incidents as of April 1. Out of the 28 shooting incidents, there had been three arrests.
Then on Saturday (April 2) at 7:54 p.m., Surrey RCMP responded to a call of shots fired at 122 Street and 92 Avenue.
When they arrived, they found evidence of gunfire and a man suffering from serious, but not life-threatening, injuries.
On Sunday (April 3) at 5:45 p.m., police received several calls of shots fired at 88 Avenue and 132 Street.
The investigation revealed it was gunfire between cars at a red light. No injuries were reported.
On Monday (April 4) at 1:55 p.m., a black BMW was fired upon, injuring the driver at 140A Street and 86A Avenue.
The BMW had six or seven bullet holes in it and shattered windows on the driver’s and passenger’s side front of the vehicle.
The BMW came to a stop across the street from where it was originally shot.
The shootings this year occurred primarily in March in the Newton and Whalley neighbourhoods.
Police do not believe the shootings are related to the spate of gunfire incidents last year, but they do think it is connected to a dial-a-dope operation where people phone dealers for their drugs.
“The majority of this year’s incidents continue to involve those associated with the illegal drug trade,” Surrey RCMP Supt. Manny Mann said Friday.
At least five of the shootings this year are connected to two groups fighting over drug turf. Mann said it’s a “low-level” drug trade, not associated with any drug “organization.”
As part of their crackdown on the drug trade, Surrey RCMP held a press gathering Friday to display one of their biggest drug busts in recent history – more than $4.5 million in drugs seized from a vehicle.
As a result of that seizure, Pardip Hayer, 30, is facing four drug-related charges.
“It was an ongoing investigation strategy on our part, that we pulled this individual over,” said RCMP Supt. Shawn Gill, adding the drugs were from another country.
The size of the seizure of drugs has police thinking it could have come from gang-level activity.
“We would be remiss to not examine the potential for links to organized crime,” said Supt. Gill.
Coun. Gill said the city is doing what it can to bring an end to the gratuitous violence. In addition to the 100 police officers, he notes the city has hired Terry Waterhouse as director of public safety.
Coun. Gill said he wishes the city had hired Waterhouse sooner so that some of the benefits of his plans would be bearing fruit by now.
Waterhouse, he said, is embarking on an extensive community engagement process, to bridge the disconnect between law enforcement and families.
That will be critical, he said, because one of the main reasons the gunplay hasn’t been stopped is because witnesses and families are reluctant to come forward.
“The bottom line is we are having a drug and gang-related problem,” Coun. Gill said, adding parents need to become more involved in working with the police rather than dissuading their kids from coming forward.
Coun. Dave Woods, formerly a police officer of 40 years, agreed with Gill’s assessment.
He also said the problem has to be attacked from a supply side, getting drug addicts the help they need in a meaningful and timely way.
“There is a huge demand, and the fact is, how do you address that?” Woods asked. “It has to be addressed from a health perspective.”
Mayor Linda Hepner was in meetings on Monday and could not be reached before The Leader’s press deadline.