British Columbia

Surrey RCMP seek to reduce crime by helping those at risk

With almost two-thirds of their calls coming on social issues — not crimes — Surrey RCMP realize they needed to team up with other agencies for help.

Surrey Mobilization and Resiliency Table — or SMART — is designed to help people in Surrey's City Centre

Surrey RCMP Insp. Ghalib Bhayani speaks with partners at a meeting of the new Surrey Mobilization and Resiliancy Table. (RCMP)

When Surrey RCMP realized last year that most of their policing calls were about social issues — not crime — they decided to take a new approach.

Only 37 per cent of their calls were for chargeable offences, said Chief Supt. Bill Fordy. The rest related to substance abuse, poverty, homelessness and mental health.

"We often times think we can arrest our way out of a problem. And that's not, in my view, sustainable," said Fordy. "We cannot fix social issues simply by making arrests."

Fourteen months later, the biggest RCMP detachment in Canada has announced a new, weekly roundtable — called the Surrey Mobilization and Resiliency Table, or SMART — to work with social, housing and health agencies to help people.

It's an "upstream model" of policing, said Insp. Ghalib Bhayani, so people at imminent risk of becoming victims or offenders can get help before they enter the criminal justice system.

Action in 24 to 48 hours

The weekly meetings will be with representatives from nine agencies, including BC Housing, City of Surrey, Fraser Health, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, Surrey School District, and others. They'll focus on individuals and families in Surrey's City Centre.

Any representative at the table can refer someone they have concerns about, said Bhayani, and the team gathered will decide whether that individual or family is at "acutely elevated risk."

If so, "a number of people at that table will say: I own a piece of this: They need housing. I own a piece of this: They need mental health assistance. I own a piece of this: They have a child."

The agencies involved will then split off the table, and come back with an action plan of what they'll do within 24 to 48 hours to help the person, Bhayani said.

The SMART approach is modeled after the "Hub" model developed in Prince Albert, Sask. and already in use in dozens of communities across Canada, he said.

"This is the first in British Columbia, and we expect this model to be emulated across the province."

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