Surrey Crime Prevention Meeting
MLA Bruce Ralston chaired the meeting.
Whalley Legion June 12 2008
MLA Mike Farnworth, Justice Critic spoke as well as RCMP Crime Prevention Program Coordinator Colleen Staresina and a representative from the Crime Prevention Society. Then they opened the meeting up to questions from the floor. There were many residents and business owners from the Whalley area that expressed great frustration with the crack problem and associated crime resulting from it. Several references were made to the safe injection site in Vancouver. The residents of Surrey don't want a safe injection site in Surrey. There was great animosity about the mishandling of treatment centres in the area. The Front Room has become a drug house. Homeless are afraid to use the facility. Having a needle exchange beside the shelter is insane. Even the staff are abused. Having a treatment centre where crack is sold and used publicly is like going on a diet in a chocolate factory. There should be no in and out privileges all night at the Front Room and the RCMP should be allowed in to make drug arrests. Drugs should not be used in that facility.
Someone who said he was an ex con and ex junkie spoke stating he had been clean for 15 years. He said rehab is possible. He cited his concern with how lenient the laws have become. Many years ago, he threatened someone and punched him in the mouth. He had to post $10,000.00 bail. Yet a recent known gang member was released in B.C. on $1,000.00 bail. That is insane. He said the best treatment for a crack addict is to lock him up for 90 days in prison.
Concerns were made about the bad judges in B.C. who are abusing the Charter of Rights and throwing out good evidence. Bruce Ralston acknowledged that the Fourth Amendment in the U.S. is the same as the Charter of Rights in Canada yet the way it is enforced is different. I agree in that the Charter of Rights doesn't need to be amended. The last thing we need is to fall into the Star Wars senator Palpatine (or George Bush) trap wherein a corrupt government creates a manufactured emergency, then gets the senate to hand over emergency powers to the Chair so they can turn around and form form a dictatorship. Replacing bad judges and changing the way the Charter is misinterpreted is the answer.
Bruce Ralston also noted that B.C. judges are becoming more lenient that Ontario and other provinces despite the fact that the legislation is federal. He stated that in the U.S. judges are elected and proposed that be something we look at in Canada. Many agreed. One man said that he was more concerned with removing bad judges. Mike Farnworth said he has been criticized for objecting to certain decisions. Some say you can't criticize judges because they interpret the law. He disagreed. He said that he felt we have a right to speak out when we feel a judge is making a wrong decision. If someone is a known gang member with a criminal record, they are entitled to be searched. That is the New York model. That is just cause for a search warrant. Any judge who says it is not should be fired.
Several concerns were raised about aggressive panhandling. You can't outlaw begging any more than you can outlaw poverty but the problem arises with very aggressive panhandling when many woman and seniors don't feel safe. Several seniors said they had to shop for groceries in a different area because they were afraid for their safety from the aggressive panhandling in their neighborhood. It is one thing for a homeless person to sit with a hat on the ground asking for money. It is another thing for a crack addict to follow and harass women and seniors to the point where they are afraid of being robbed and assaulted.
Colleen Staresina correctly pointed out the the city of Surrey and the RCMP has been very vigilant in removing known crack houses. Yet residents were very upset the police drive by people smoking crack in public. Colleen Staresina was quick to rationalize the police's position and said "Do you have any idea how much paperwork there is to do to arrest someone smoking crack on the street only to have a judge or other court official throw out the case?" That's when one senior lost it and shouted "You're not listening to us! We don't want crack smoked in public in our neighborhood!" She lives in the police made buffer zone of crack tolerance. Another woman was told by the police just to move. She said she didn't want to because she just signed a lease.
One bar owner expressed his concern about the inequity of the law. He objected to the police driving by people smoking crack in his neighborhood and said that if someone lights up a cigarette outside his bar that person can be fined $2,000.00 and that fine can be enforceable. He said the inequity of the law is absurd. Even in Vancouver, if someone shoots up at the safe injection site then goes outside and lights a cigarette in the doorway of the site, that person can be fined for smoking the cigarette. He raised a valid concern. How can the police enforced parking, speeding or jay walking and not arrest people for smoking crack? Calls were made to cut the head off the snake. If you stop letting people smoke crack in public, then you will reduce the demand for the dealers to supply it. The New York model was cited often and one long time resident said she was depressed. She wanted hope. She didn't want to see and hear her community degenerate to much.
Citing the inequity of the law, that same bar owner objecting to criminals running free and the police driving by people smoking crack in his neighborhood asked why am I the one with bars on my windows in my home? Mike Farnworth having to agree with the man's concerns shook his head and said all he could say to that was cite a quote from Charles Dickens and said "Sir... the law is an ass." Indeed it is. Let's fix it while we still can.
Amy should have gone to rehab
B.C. Judges Hall of Shame