Surrey shootings: Mayor Linda Hepner 'angry' about recent violence
RCMP investigating 3 shootings in past 3 days linked to what police call a new drug conflict in the city
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner expressed her frustration about gun violence that has seen 31 shootings in her city this year, with three in the past three days.
"I am so angry this that this is happening again in my city," she told media on Tuesday. "To be dealing with this again is unacceptable."
Surrey RCMP is investigating three shootings over the past three days — the latest in a residential area in the middle of the afternoon.
Police say they believe the violence is linked to a new drug conflict.
"I want to call them punks," said Hepner about some young, aggressive people she feels are holding her city hostage.
She said the vast majority of both the perpetrators and targets of the shootings have been young males of South Asian descent.
Hepner said that fact — along with the relatively young overall population of the city — makes Surrey especially vulnerable to gun violence, but that her city is not alone.
She defended her administration's efforts to crack down on the violence after a similar spree hit Surrey last year. Hepner said there have been hundreds of arrests and charges brought forward since, breaking the back of the problem.
But "through the success of last year we have created a vacuum," Hepner said.
Despite repeated questioning, the mayor was unable to offer assurance to residents that another cycle of violence won't start up once the problem currently facing the city is brought under control.
Surrey RCMP Community Services Supt. Shawn Gill said a "strategic long term approach" to the violence is needed, one that involves multiple agencies, ranging from different police services to health agencies.
Gill said the spike in violence is recent and related to the drug trade.
But he also asked for the community's patience with the RCMP. He said the force had been instrumental in bringing forward charges in other cases which resulted in widespread fear: the murder of Maple Batalia and the beating death of Julie Paskall.
In both those cases, Gill said police were ultimately able to get results.
Hepner said the city has put nearly 100 additional police officers on the street, and stepped up enforcement.
But she said she has also been speaking with the province's Public Safety Minister with a view to toughening up enforcement.
She said there needs to be stiffer penalties for gunplay in city streets.
With files from Jason Proctor and Jesse Johnston