'It has become a normality': Violent crime up 43% in Surrey in first quarter of 2019
The 'substantial increase' in violent crimes is driven in part by a change in the way statistics are collected
The number of robberies, sex crimes and assaults in Surrey increased 43 per cent in the first quarter of the year, compared to the same period in 2018, according to an RCMP statement, citing data from Statistics Canada.
The spike in the crime rate is in part due to a change in the way crime statistics are reported across Canada as of Jan. 1, 2019, adding many incidents previously considered "unsubstantiated" to the tally, according to RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturko.
"We had a substantial increase," she said.
"The changes are going to result in a numerical increase, but it's a more victim-centred approach to how police agencies across Canada are managing investigations," said Sturko.
Total criminal code offences reported increased by four per cent, while violent crimes were up by 43 per cent.
Sturko said part of that spike can be attributed to the revisions to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey by Statistics Canada which now includes offences where there is "no credible evidence to confirm that incident did not take place."
'It has become a normality'
For those living in Surrey, the increase in certain crimes hasn't gone unnoticed.
"I'm not surprised because we daily see it, we daily feel it," said Gurpreet Singh Sahota, a founding member of Wake Up Surrey, the citizen-formed group calling for an end to violence.
"It [violence] has become a normality."
Sahota says many in his community feel not enough is being done by the police to stop violent crimes in Surrey.
Validating the victim
The Surrey RCMP's Sturko says one of the reasons the new reporting system was implemented is because people didn't feel their cases were always being taken seriously — in particular, victims of sexual assault.
"When things came back as ... unsubstantiated, they [the victims] felt the justice system wasn't believing them," said Sturko.
The goal, she adds, is the new system will help reduce the amount of unreported and under-reported crimes.
Shahnaz Rahman, the executive director of the Surrey Women's Centre, agrees it will help validate victims of abuse but says it needs to go further.
"Having numbers is one thing, but also having resources to support those women who have those experiences is another thing," said Rahman.
She says her staff attends to two or three calls a day from victims of sexual violence who have ended up in the hospital.
Certain crimes are up, while others are down
Gropings also increased and make up a quarter of all sexual offences, said RCMP.
Most of the sexual offences reported — 68 per cent — involved an offender known to the victim, in many cases involving two people who are intimate.
"These crimes are not stranger on stranger," said Sturko.
Cases police describe as "sextortions," or crimes that involve coercion to extort money or sex, are also on the rise in Surrey, according to the police statement.
While violent crime totals rose compared to the first quarter of 2018, Sturko said property crime continued a four-year downward trend, decreasing by nine per cent overall.
There were less home break-ins and thefts from and of vehicles.
And the total number of shooting incidents so far this year stands at nine, compared to 12 for the same time period last year.