Opinion Column

Surrey’s murder rate not the whole story 0

Leo Knight Prime Time Crime columnist 24 hours (PHOTO SUBMITTED).

By Leo Knight, Law and Order, 24 hours Vancouver



Surrey recently broke its record for the number of homicides in a year. The community notched its 23rd murder on Saturday, but after the record-breaking 22nd dead body earlier last week Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts promptly announced the formation of a special task force consisting of police, educators and criminologists. What exactly this task force is going to do isn’t quite clear.

While Surrey set a dubious record, so far in 2013 Vancouver’s homicide rate is historically low. The Vancouver Police Department has only had five murders to investigate — in 2012 there were only eight.

Typically, over the past few decades, the VPD would handle an average of 25 to 30 murders a year, but those rates have been dropping over the past few years while Surrey has seen its numbers go up.

The proactive approach of police with such things as bar watch programs has reduced violent crime, including assaults and street fights, but I’m not sure it alters the murder rate positively or not.

I spoke with a former VPD homicide sergeant about this and he cautioned that these things are cyclical. The murder rate depends on so many variables, primarily with what’s going on with the gang situation. The stability of the streets is affected as gang leaders get jailed and power struggles occur to control turf.

Equally, murders and the criminals who commit them don’t respect municipal borders. The other part of that statement is in whose jurisdiction a body is found. A sex-trade worker picked up and killed in the Strathcona area of Vancouver, but dumped in Whalley, is a Surrey case and the VPD has nothing to do with the file except to assist if requested.

It is perhaps more instructive to look at the Lower Mainland as a whole for a clearer picture. This is difficult because the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is responsible for local RCMP detachments and the municipalities of New Westminster, Port Moody and Abbotsford, but doesn’t cover Delta, West Vancouver and Vancouver.

Why these three aren’t included is another question, given the broader regional concerns. There would be one unit if we had a regional police force. This was recommended by former B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal, first in 1994 and again in the final report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

But I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Not with the petty politics of local municipalities, never mind the politics of policing.

By my count there have been about 45 murders in the Lower Mainland so far in 2013. Regionally, that’s about average.

Leo Knight is a former police officer, security expert and host of primetimecrime.com.





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