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Surrey needs 350 more cops, activist tells council

‘Right now we are 350 police behind what our population requires,’ politicians are told

Surrey needs 350 more police officers, an anti-gang activist has told city council roughly a month after five of the nine politicians voted not to hire more cops this year.

The leader of a grassroots group that is working toward eradicating gang violence here told Surrey council this week that the city is 350 officers shy of a full complement.

Sukhi Sandhu, of Wake Up Surrey, gave a run-down on his group’s activities to lobby government for positive change. during a half-hour delegation speech before council-in-committee on Monday.

“Right now we are 350 police behind what our population requires,” Sandhu told the politicians.

Sandhu told the Now-Leader he used Vancouver as a reference for Surrey’s 350-cop shortage. The Surrey RCMP detachment has 835 Mounties while the Vancouver Police has 1,327 police officers.

Surrey is currently in the process of developing its own police force after council served notice at its inaugural meeting on Nov. 5, 2018 it’s bowing out of its contract with the RCMP, which has policed this city since 1951.

On Dec. 19, in a five-four vote, Surrey council approved a budget that will not see any new police officers hired in 2019.

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We asked Mayor Doug McCallum about that 350 figure, and this is what he had to say.

“We’ve done our budget, that was passed a month ago, and you know, we’re moving forward on the basis of what the majority of council felt we needed to do for our budget. As far as police officers, it’s well known both in your own city police, if we had that, or any city that does have that, or even with the RCMP in Surrey, the number of police officers, council doesn’t necessarily get involved in it until budget time and that’s when the officer will come forward and say how many officers that the police will need for the next budget period,” he told the Now-Leader on Tuesday.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum (file phot0)

“So we will be dealing with our next budget which is for next year probably in about early fall and so we’ll address whatever the RCMP needs or comes forward with, with officers, in the budget when we get into negotiations in the fall.”

READ ALSO: B.C.’s RCMP top brass on policing Surrey

Sandhu noted that Vancouver, many many years ago, had a serious gang problem “and through their leadership and their deployment numbers and their strategic alignment changes they were able to get a hold, control the gang problem that originated in the late 90s.

“There’s a consensus on this that you can’t just snap you fingers and change the policing model and expect things to change overnight,” Sandhu said.

Sukhi Sandhu, of Wake Up Surrey (file photo)

“We have stressed to all politicians that policing is essential service,” he told the Now-Leader, “and you need to let the experts lead this particular issue. It’s like teaching, it’s like health care, it’s like other essential services. We cannot compromise our policing numbers due to political budget cuts. At the same time, Wake Up Surrey has always stressed and been consistent on this that policing is one aspect, one component of the overall gang problem. Parents need to step up, the community needs to be more engaged, prevention funding needs to be more consistent and sustainable.”

READ ALSO DOMESTIC SILENCE: Parents of Surrey gangsters won’t speak up

Sandhu told council his group’s “key pillars” are activism, awareness, advocacy and engagement.

Wake Up Surrey was formed in the wake of an anti-gang rally that drew thousands of people to the plaza outside city hall in the early summer of 2018.

The rally was held following the June 4 shooting murders of Jaskarn Singh Jhutty, 16, and Jaskaran Singh Bhangal, 17, in Campbell Heights. Investigators have not connected the homicides to gangs or drugs but consider the shootings to have been “targeted.”

“We believe we are in a crisis situation,” Sandhu said of gang violence. “We believe there’s a need for collective responsibility rather than a blame game.”

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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