Community court would reduce crime, make Surrey safer: NDP

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts has been asking for a community court for years. Now, three NDP MLAs say that the party will push for one as part of its Surrey Accord crime-reduction initiative.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts has been pushing for community court for three years already

3 NDP MLAs announced support for community court in Surrey, something the mayor has been asking for since 2011 2:16

The provincial New Democratic Party is putting pressure on the Liberal government to build a community court as a way to make Surrey safer — something the city has requested for years.

Three NDPMLAs announced the initiative Sunday as the first plank in the party's Surrey Accord — an initiative announced following the random and brutal assault on Julie Paskall, who died from her injuries in December.

Surrey-Green TImbers MLA Sue Hammell (middle) says the provincial government will struggle to meet goal of 500 addictions spaces in the province by 2017. (CBC)

With Surrey residents more on edge about crime and personal safety than ever before, Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains said it is past time for the government to act.

"Time is now. Enough talk, enough promises: it is time for them to act on the promises they have made, come and help the City of Surrey," MLA Harry Bains said.

The courts are designed to deal with small time, repeat offenders who often cope with mental illness and substance abuse. One has been operating in Vancouver since 2008.

Vancouver's community court, which has just undergone a final evaluation following a six-year pilot project. (CBC)

Bruce Ralston, MLA for Surrey-Whalley, said the courts are designed to deal with small-time, repeat offenders.

"It deals with prolific offenders who are chronic and back before the courts time and time again because their untreated problem of mental illness or addiction is causing their erratic behaviours," he said.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts is supportive of this style of court, and made a big push for one in 2011.

"We identified that through our crime reduction strategy that really deals with the root causes of crime," she said. "And a community court was identified at that point in time."

Vancouver has had a community court in the Downtown Eastside since 2008, in a building that used to be the city's pre-trial centre.

Watts says Surrey also has a building ready to house its community court — the old city hall, once the move to the new city hall building in Central Surrey completes next month.

Police poster the Newton bus loop, near the Newton Arena where Surrey hockey mom Julie Paskall was robbed and beaten. In the days following her death, residents of the central Surrey neighbourhood came forward with their fears about safety in their community, and a litany of complaints. (CBC)

"We don't need any capital dollars," she said. "The council chambers at city hall can be used in that context."

Watts has a meeting scheduled with Attorney General Suzanne Anton for Feb. 5.

In a written statement sent to CBC News on Sunday, Anton said her department intends "to make evidence-based decisions as we evaluate these innovations."

"There are a number of ways to address the issue of crime and it's important to integrate our justice and social systems in a manner that best suits a particular community," Anton said.

With files from the CBC's Richard Zussman

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