In the days after a Surrey, B.C., mother was killed in a robbery outside a Newton ice rink, the mayor says a task force on crime has already been working, and will continue to work, to make the city a safer place.
On Sunday, Julie Paskall, 53, was attacked by a stranger in the parking lot of the Newton Arena, where she had been waiting to pick up her son from hockey practice. She later died in hospital on Tuesday with her family at her side.
Now, residents of the central Surrey neighbourhood are coming forward with their fears about safety in their community, and a litany of complaints, including everything from inadequate lighting at night to the location of a bus loop that has become notorious for shady activity.
On Friday, Mayor Dianne Watts said her task force, which was announced in November following the city's 22nd homicide of 2013, has already taken strides to address those concerns. But the random and violent nature of Paskall's death has shocked the area's residents, and focused city hall's attention even more.
"That has surely shaken all of us. The community in Newton, across the city," Watts said.
Paskall's was the last of 25 homicides in Surrey in 2013. No suspects have been arrested in her death.
Investigators said earlier this week that, while the brutal attack is similar to an assault on a woman in the area on Dec. 16, they have yet to establish any links between the two incidents.
On Saturday, police officers canvassed the neighbourhood again, speaking with locals and putting up posters asking for information about the crime.
Force's focus on Newton, Whalley
Watts said that as a result of the crime task force operation, nearly 50 RCMP officers have been redeployed to Newton and Whalley. She said there has already been a crackdown on illegal drug activity and that police have made dozens of arrests.
Security is also being increased around Newton Town Centre, and trees and brush will be removed from behind the Newton Arena, to take away hiding spots. But Watts says there are limits to what the city and police can do to meet the area residents' and visitors' needs.
For example, residents have been asking the city to move the Newton bus loop, which has reportedly been a hub for criminal activity for years, but Watts says it's up to TransLink to make that happen.
Watts also told CBC News that the task force is also talking about the challenges the city is facing from specific communities. For example, a third of the population in Surrey is under 19 years of age, and Surrey is the largest receiver of refugees in the province, with many coming from troubled, war-torn countries.