The fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man in a Surrey neighbourhood early Friday was a tragically familiar moment of violence in a city beset by a roiling battle for gang turf.
What’s different this time is the politicization of the incident in its immediate aftermath, as Surrey’s new mayor waded in with his views on the killing even as homicide investigators remained at the crime scene.
At 1:30 a.m. Friday, a 22-year-old man who police say is linked to the ongoing gang war was shot in the 14200-block of 70A Avenue.
By 10:15 a.m., Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum issued a statement calling it “yet another example of the ongoing trauma and fear that are being inflicted on the communities, residents and families of Surrey.
“This latest incident of deadly gun violence further emphasizes the need for the City of Surrey to have its own city police force.”
Despite the new city council having been sworn in just days ago, McCallum also suggested the move to a civic policing agency is running into “road blocks” from the provincial government.
“… I am dismayed by the resistance that is being encountered at the provincial level. The overwhelming mandate that we have been given by the people is to complete the transition to a Surrey Police Department as quickly as possible,” said the mayor.
The commanding officer of the RCMP in the province responded about six hours later with her own strong words.
“Statements like this risk undermining public trust and confidence in policing,” said Deputy Comm. Brenda Butterworth-Carr. “With a homicide of this nature, people are already reluctant to come forward. Any erosion of public trust and confidence challenges our ability to solve complex cases with assistance from people who are often reluctant to participate in the first place.”
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth also responded to McCallum’s claims in a statement, saying the government is working with Surrey on its policing plan.
“No one is putting up any road blocks,” said Farnworth. “We are prepared to work with the mayor. He has to be willing to work too. A new police force isn’t created over the weekend but the province is committed to working with the city as they move forward.”
The minister said the government wants to make sure a strong plan is in place that ensures people in Surrey have policing they can be confident in.
The government has invested in anti-gang programs in Surrey and enhanced policing and will continue to work to ensure people feel safe, he said.
Premier John Horgan said there is a “serious issue” with gang shootings in the Lower Mainland and the province wants to address that. He said the province would work with McCallum when the mayor brings forward a plan.
“We need to have a plan. You can’t just get in front of a microphone and say, ’Why haven’t you fixed this?’ It takes work and he knows that full well.”
— With a file from The Canadian Press
FULL MAYOR’S STATEMENT
This morning’s tragic shooting outside of a home in Newton is yet another example of the ongoing trauma and fear that are being inflicted on the communities, residents and families of Surrey. This latest incident of deadly gun violence further emphasizes the need for the City of Surrey to have its own city police force.
The people of Surrey have been abundantly clear that such a move is a top priority, which is why council and I have moved immediately to establish a Surrey Police Department and terminate the city’s contract with the RCMP.
While Surrey City Council is moving rapidly on this front, I am dismayed by the resistance that is being encountered at the provincial level. The overwhelming mandate that we have been given by the people is to complete the transition to a Surrey Police Department as quickly as possible. I want to urge the premier to remove any road blocks at the provincial level and help us make this critical transition proceed in the most timely and smooth manner possible for the people of Surrey.
— Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum
FULL RCMP STATEMENT
Earlier today, the Surrey mayor issued a statement about a homicide in the 14200 block of 70A Avenue that occurred at 1:30 a.m. today.
The homicide is believed to be a targeted event and while the exact motive is still being determined, our investigators say the victim is associated to the region-wide Lower Mainland gang conflict. As citizens in the region — I am one too — we are alarmed when there is gang violence on our streets. It erodes our sense of safety and our feeling of community.
The fact that a 22-year-old man has been murdered is terrible. I feel for the family and for the residents of the Newton neighbourhood in which this incident took place. Right now, the Surrey RCMP and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) are focused on finding out who murdered this young man.
Statements like this risk undermining public trust and confidence in policing. With a homicide of this nature, people are already reluctant to come forward. Any erosion of public trust and confidence challenges our ability to solve complex cases with assistance from people who are often reluctant to participate in the first place. This concern is not unique to any one police force.
The Surrey RCMP includes the expertise of several Lower Mainland integrated teams including the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT), emergency response team (ERT), integrated forensic identification services (IFIS), integrated police dog services (IPDS), Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) and the integrated collision analysis reconstruction services (ICARS). These all provide crucial services to the nearly two million people the RCMP serves in the Lower Mainland.
As the commanding officer of the B.C. RCMP, I want the public to know that the Surrey RCMP and the integrated teams, made up of officers from the RCMP and independent municipal police departments, will continue to work diligently to maintain public safety.
Until Surrey RCMP is no longer the contracted police service, our employees must be allowed to and will continue to police safely and effectively. I will not allow public confidence in policing to be undermined or eroded. I wish to assure all those engaged in delivering police services to Surrey that they have my utmost trust and confidence.
— Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr
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