British Columbia

How Surrey's mayor plans to help keep her city safe

After nearly a year of planning and public consultation, Surrey's mayor is unveiling a new plan aimed at keeping the city safe.

After nearly a year of planning, Surrey is rolling out its public safety strategy

Mayor Linda Hepner unveils Surrey's new public safety strategy at a news conference at city hall. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

After nearly a year of planning and public consultation, Surrey's mayor is unveiling her new vision to keep the city safe.

The plan calls for a new community safety centre that will host youth programs, cracking down on problem properties and a voluntary surveillance camera registry for residents and businesses.

The Public Safety Strategy also builds on existing programs that have been in place since Surrey introduced its Crime Reduction Strategy nearly a decade ago.

"The strategy brings together agencies and resources under a single action plan that enhances 34 programs and new initiatives," said Mayor Linda Hepner.

Hepner says the strategy will not require any new money from the city.

"We're confident that we can do this strategy within existing means and within the opportunities for funding through other levels of government," she said.

Safe city?

When Hepner was running for mayor in 2014, Surrey was still reeling from the high profile killings of hockey mom Julie Paskall and Newton teenager Serena Vermeersch.

Hepner promised to get tough on crime but shortly after she took office, a bloody drug feud broke out in the city which led to dozens of shootings.

"I could trot out statistics and graphs and charts that demonstrate that we are legitimately a safe, big city," Hepner said in her State of the City address in November, 2015.

"The simple fact is that if you don't feel safe, all the statistics in the world aren't going to matter."

To address the community's concerns, Hepner hired Terry Waterhouse as Surrey's director of public safety strategy late last year.

What's new?

Waterhouse spent close to a year crafting the document that was finally released Monday morning.

He says it is much different than the city's Crime Reduction Strategy that was written in 2007, partly because it focuses much more heavily on vulnerable residents.

"Our populations are more vulnerable than they've ever been before with homelessness issues, substance abuse issues and mental health," he said.

"So those are consistent social challenges, more so than they've ever been before. So, I think those integrated services are new and enhanced."

Waterhouse says the city will also concentrate on data analysis.

"We know that we have very sophisticated data sets but what we've been wrestling with the last year is how we're using those," Waterhouse said.

"Because the reality is a lot of agencies collect that data but many agencies don't use that data. So we're using that in really rigorous ways to make sure we really understand the situation and then respond to that data."

Project Iris

Surrey will soon be asking business owners and residents to become a part of Project Iris, which is an information sharing program with the Surrey RCMP.

Anyone with a surveillance camera on their property can sign up to become a part of an RCMP database that will track where CCTV footage is available in the city.

"It has not been done in many cities but it will allow us to use CCTV cameras that are available in the city to support the police, so that makes a big difference."