Surrey’s Social Problem

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The life of a Rose Sunday October 26 2008

This morning I filled up with gas at the station on 108 Ave and 135 A Street at 6:00 AM. I saw the social problems that result from crack cocaine and it reminded me of East Vancouver or the Deuce in New York City during the /80’s

Surrey has always had a bad reputation for crime and violence. Growing up in Surrey meant we would hear all the Surrey jokes like "Hey did you hear Vancouver got a new prison? They put a fence around Surrey." Most of it was just jokes but some areas of Surrey did have crime problems and Surrey used to be the car theft capital of North America. However, the bait car and crime prevention efforts have been very successful in reducing those statistics.

I remember driving out to Langley with my daughter one day and going to Willowbrook mall. She looked around, smiled and said, "How do you know we’ve left Surrey? There’s no clubs on the car steering wheels here." We both chuckled and had an even bigger chuckle the next day when we heard the news report that car theft in Surrey has gone down but has dramatically increased in Langley. No wonder we said. If all the cars in Surrey have clubs on them but they don’t in Langley then the car thieves will go to Langley.

Although Surrey has greatly improved in many areas, in two areas it’s gotten worse. One is the mob mentality and the other is crack. Crack kills in more ways than one. It transforms a community and the resulting social problems it creates are devastating.

Years ago youth violence was the concern. Chuck Cadman was a local hero who pushed for changes to the Young Offenders act so that youth could be tried as adults for certain violent crimes like murder. This was a change he helped make after his son Jesse was stabbed and murdered on his way home at night because someone didn’t like his hat. Now the problem with youth violence is the mob mentality.

When I was a kid, if there was an issue between two people they would settle it after school in the designated fight pit. Now youth don’t fight one on one. They will swarm you and beat you senseless. There certainly is no bravery in that. The Michael Levy case was but one example.

Michael Levy was attending a planned birthday party at Tynehead hall with paid security. A car drives up with several angry youth in it who swarm Michael Levy, bear spray him, give him the boots and beat him senseless. Then someone pulls out an axe and strikes him in the back of the head when he is on the ground and disables him for life.

The swarming mob mentality is the problem now and it certainly isn’t limited to Surrey. You even see that in Victoria. Bad laws for the youth aren’t the state of emergency today, bad laws for adults is.

There is no real consequence for adults who commit violent crime. That needs to change. Stephen Harper promised to get tough on crime but instead of introducing mandatory sentences for violent crime he introduces mandatory sentences for the possession of marijuana. Someone isn’t listening.

The other problem is crack and it certainly isn’t limited to Surrey. When I read Gary Webb’s reports on how the CIA was responsible for the crack epidemic in LA and across the United States back n the /80’s I have to ask myself who said the crack epidemic is over? It might have been resolved in New York City but it certainly isn’t resolved in Canadian cities.

Dainne Watts brought former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to speak about how they fixed New York’s crime and violence problems. He said you have to get tough on crime. "If you have crime, you have got to make sure you have the right policing. People are arrested. People are punished. People are deterred."

"Watts agreed with Giuliani's tough-on-crime approach, saying a vibrant, bustling city has no room for repeat offenders. ‘When you have got somebody coming before the justice system 100 or 200 times, I mean, it is time to take a different tack,’ said Watts."

I completely agree it is time to get tough on crime. However, I disagree on which crime to address and how to address it.

Selling crack or crystal meth is different that selling pot. We need to make a legal distinction between those crimes. Getting rid of all the crack in East Van and opening up a BC Bud store would see a transformation in the violence. I know many people who work hard and contribute to society but blaze on the weekend. Crack addiction is very different. We don't have to legalize pot but we don't have to go to the other extreme either. Just set it aside and deal with the crack and meth.

An addict’s possession of crack or crystal meth is different than a dealer who sells crack. There needs to be a difference in the punishment for possession of crack and trafficking crack even if they only have a small quantity in their possession when they are selling the drug. That is how dealers avoid the law. They have runners and only have a small amount in their possession at a time. As a result, when they are caught they are only charged with possession not trafficking, which is what they are really doing.

The police stopped arresting crack dealers because before they finish filing the paper work on the arrest the dealer is back on the street. Our judicial system is criminal. Giving the boots to the crack addicts is counter productive. "A" it does not work. Violence only begets violence and "B" many addicts just come to Surrey so they won’t get beat up which in a sense disproves "A".

We need to get tough on the people who sell crack not the addicts. It’s that simple. Getting militant over petty crime is not the answer. Kicking the cat will not help heal our social problems. We need to get tough on people who sell the drugs.

This leads us to the problematic nature of the quest due to our corrupt judicial system. Sending a meth cook to jail but not sending the Hells Angel to jail who he was cooking the meth for is wrong and putting a publication ban on that Hells Angel’s name is just plain criminal. Nothing more nothing less:

We need to separate homelessness and drug addiction. Having a needle exchange right beside the Front Room homeless shelter is insane. That’s like going on a diet in a candy factory. Having in and out privileges at the Front Room all night is insane. Right now the Front Room is a government subsidized drug house. I have met many homeless people who are too afraid to stay at the Front Room because of the violence.

We need paid security from a competent firm like Genesis who work security on the Granville bar strip around the Front Room and at Surrey Central. They need to record and report people who sell drugs to the police. Video cameras need to be installed and if they are threatened, the police need to arrest those uttering threats. It is that simple.

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Surrey's Crime Prevention Meeting

[Gangsters Out]