British Columbia

Crime is a hot topic in the Surrey Centre riding. Here's what the candidates plan to do about it

Most types of crime have been decreasing in Surrey since the last federal election, but it's still an issue that could sway the way voters cast their ballots. This is especially true in the Surrey Centre riding, where the combination of poverty, addiction and mental health issues create specific challenges in the community.

Auto shop owner Paul Chen says petty crime has seriously affected his business in the riding

Surrey auto shop owner Paul Chen says the issue of crime around his business is out of control, and he's planning to sell the shop. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The computer at Paul Chen's Surrey auto shop has a folder filled with of dozens of surveillance footage clips — each one preserving the record of an incident.

Some show thieves making off with the U-Haul trucks Chen rents out. There's one of people climbing on his neighbour's roof to steal metal. There's vandalism. And then — one video where an irate man starts smashing a blue sedan parked across the street.

The man kicks off the mirrors, tries to break the passenger window, and then jumps up on the hood, roof and trunk, leaving large dents. The incident continues until Chen runs out of his shop wielding a big stick, and a couple other neighbours step in to help restrain the man, before two RCMP SUVs quickly arrive.

For Chen, who has operated the shop at the end of the notorious Surrey Strip on 135A Street for five years, crime is something he routinely experiences. It's usually property crime, but two shootings near his house have him concerned about his family's safety.

The Surrey Strip on 135A St. was home to a significant tent city, before municipal officials cleared it out in June, 2018. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

The shop, located in the Surrey Centre riding, has been surrounded with barbed wire fencing and a $2,000 surveillance system. There's a "For Sale" sign hanging on the fence — Chen has had enough, and plans to shut the shop down.

The issue of crime has shaped the way voters in this area have cast their ballots in recent elections, whether it's municipal, provincial, or federal. Here's what some of the candidates running in the Surrey Centre riding plan to do about it.

Randeep Sarai, Liberal

Randeep Sarai, the incumbent, is running again for the Liberals.

Randeep Sarai is the Liberal Party of Canada candidate in Surrey Centre. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"I got results. I got a forensics lab, we received $7.5 million for the [Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment] Program ... we were able to triple the Wrap funding for the school program," said Sarai.

According to Sarai, when he's out knocking on doors, the issue of crime certainly comes up, but after other issues like housing, transportation and mental health.

Sarjit Saran, NDP

NDP candidate Sarjit Saran approaches the issue of crime by considering the underlying issues that contribute to crime.

"The analogy I use is it's like a leaking roof," said Saran. "There's water coming in from the ceiling — where's it coming from?"

Sarjit Saran is the New Democratic Party candidate in Surrey Centre. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"What we've identified as a party is there is major issues regarding mental health, there's major issues in this area regarding homelessness," he said.

So when it comes to solutions, Saran leans toward social programs.

Saran, like Sarai, said that voters he's hearing from rank crime after other issues like housing affordability.

Tina Bains, Conservative

Tina Bains is running for the Conservatives as a "tough on crime" candidate. In contrast to the other candidates, she said that when she knocks on doors, crime is all that hears about.

"People don't feel safe in the communities, because gun violence erupts anywhere," said Bains.

Tina Bains is the Conservative Party of Canada candidate in Surrey Centre. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"If the Conservatives are [elected], they'll be pouring a lot of money into the police force," she said, adding that she favours stiffer penalties to deal with the petty crime problem in the riding.

John Werring, Green

Green Party candidate John Werring said crime isn't among the main issues voters are raising with him, but there is a critical issue of gang violence in Surrey. Like every other candidate CBC News spoke to, Werring identified early prevention programs to keep young people out of gangs.

He said the main type of crime that occurs in the riding, however, is property crime.

John Werring is running as the Green Party of Canada candidate in the Surrey Centre riding. (Green Party of Canada)

"Property crime is primarily linked to poverty and people with drug addiction and mental health issues," said Werring, adding that more services are needed to address those issues to reduce the crime.

He also noted that crime rates in the city have been going down in recent years, a point that's supported by statistics provided by the RCMP.

Homicides have increased from eight in 2015 to 15 last year, but other types of crime have gone down. Attempted murders have decreased from 43 to just 12 in the same period, gun incidents have decreased, and property crime is down nearly 15 per cent since 2015 in Surrey.


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About the Author

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver, filing stories for cbc.ca, CBC Radio, and television.