SURREY ASSOCIATION OF SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES

 

MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING

Thursday, Feb.19, 2008, at 7.30 pm

Port Kells Community Hall, 18818 88 Ave.

 

Members present: Darlene Bowyer (Port Kells CA), Doug Bell, Leonor Bradley (Guildford Community Partners Society), Bonnie Burnside (Whalley CA), Deb Jack (Surrey Environmental Partners), Nick Kapty (Cranley Place RA), Cindy Law (CRONIC), Lucie Matich ( Port Mann CA), Sonia Nazar (Bridgeview CA) Barb Paton (Semiahmoo RA), Grant Rice (South Westminster CA), Wally Sandvoss (Port Kells CA), Velma Wilson (Cloverdale CA), Fred Weber (Ocean Park CA), Rosemary Zelinka (Elgin Ratepayers and Coordinator for Surrey ASC).

 

Guests: Jagrup Brar (MLA for Panorama Ridge), Rick Hart (Fleetwood CA), Supt. Wayne Rideout (RCMP) Lesley Tannen (Downtown Surrey BIA), several members of Whalley CA and Port Kells CA.

 

1. Presentation re Gang Violence

Supt Wayne Rideout of the RCMP explained the growth of gangs in the Vancouver area, noting that the organized crime that was active in the 1990’s tended to practice violence against other gangs and not involve the public, while gangs today don’t seem to care about the public and are doing violence everywhere. Gang violence is mostly about disputes over ownership of territory for dealing drugs. In Metro Vancouver, gang members are now usually in their 20’s and 30’s rather than youth.

After several members expressed concerns about their safety, Supt Rideout noted that there are 70-80 murders per year in Surrey, which means that we are statistically safe, but due to the brazen nature of some recent violence, we are not 100% safe.

 

He explained the marijuana trade in BC as being the basis of most gangs, which is often exchanged for cocaine, other drugs, and guns with contacts in the U.S. He noted that there may be as many as 5,000 “B.C, bud” grow ops in Surrey, where a 3 months crop will yield $300,000 in an ordinary house. The fine if caught is only $2000 and jail is imposed only after at least 2 previous convictions. Recent court decisions have made it difficult for police to do more than stand outside and watch while bylaw enforcement officers are the ones to enter suspect grow op houses.

 

Police know who committed 90% of the murders and assaults, but the problem is getting enough evidence to satisfy the standard of a “substantial likelihood of conviction” demanded by prosecutors and then the “beyond a reasonable doubt” required by the courts. Overworked prosecutors will only take forward the cases almost certain to produce convictions. To counter some very smart lawyers hired by gang members, the police must spend increasingly large amounts of time preparing for court - a murder case, for example, might now generate 100,000 pages of documentation. This limits police availability on the streets.

 

In terms of solutions, Supt. Rideout thought that having a regional police force is not necessary because there is already substantial cooperation between police forces in Metro Vancouver, including integrated homicide and gang task forces. Both Toronto and Montreal have regional police forces and also have gang violence.

Supt. Rideout was also not in favour of legalizing marijuana, which can lead to use of harder drugs.

Differences in bail systems were discussed – in the US persons are kept in jail unless there is a good reason why not; in Canada, people are let out on bail unless there is a good reason why not.

 

Supt Rideout suggested the following solutions:

* More police, prosecutors, and judges;
* Reform in the legal system e.g. stiffer penalties at lower levels such as drug trafficking, no double time for time served, reverse onus on bail;
* Extreme violence should have no tolerance;
* Need to interdict guns better, with stiffer penalties;
* More programs for early youth intervention;
* More ability to seize property for money-laundering;
* Have special prosecutors and judges that concentrate on gangs;

 

The public also needs to speak out and lobby for change.

The possibility of a court watch program, manned by volunteers, was discussed. It could compare procedures and sentences in criminal courts.

It was noted that the new Provincial budget appeared to be cutting funding for the criminal justice system by about $30 million.

Supt. Rideout was thanked for attending the meeting and sharing his knowledge and experience about gang violence.

 

2. Other Business

Bonnie Burnside and Rick Hart advised, as a matter of urgency, that Renate Gepraegs, the City’s Beautification Coordinator has left employment with the City and moved to Calgary. They expressed concerns that due to the current economic climate, the City might not fill her position, or might fill it with someone not experienced in community development type projects. The immediate implementation of the Neighbourhood Matching Grants program could then be in doubt.

 

It was agreed that Surrey ASC would send a letter to the City regarding these concerns and encourage other Community Associations to do the same.

Due to the late hour, other business and reports from member organizations were postponed to the next Surrey ASC meeting, on Thursday March 19.

 

3. Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 9.10 p.m.