But a Simon Fraser University criminologist says three months of data doesn’t prove anything
Surrey’s mayor says crime statistics released Thursday support the common view that his city is unsafe.
“From residents to business owners, the one message that I have constantly heard is that people continue to feel unsafe in our city,” Mayor Doug McCallum said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the third-quarter crime statistics back up what the people of Surrey have been telling me.”
The unflattering admission comes as the city works to establish its own municipal police department.
Third-quarter crime statistics released by Surrey RCMP show that in the three months from July to September, the total number of Criminal Code offences reported in the city rose six per cent compared to the previous three months.
There were five homicides in the third quarter, compared to three in April through June, and five in the first quarter. Incidents of attempted murder, violent crime, robbery and abduction also rose. Sexual offences decreased.
In its report, the RCMP noted the increase in violent crime is consistent with trends across the Lower Mainland, as is a 10-per-cent increase in property crime. A 29-per-cent increase in fraud was attributed to the investigation of a local boat dealership.
The report also said arrests have been made in three of the five homicides, and while there were 14 shots-fired incidents in the third quarter, as of Thursday, there were 33 gun-related incidents this year, compared to 34 in the same time period last year.
In his statement, McCallum said he was “disheartened” by the report, adding “it does not come as a surprise to me.”
“Our RCMP members are doing the best job they can,” he continued, “but it is clear from what I have heard from our citizens that Surrey would benefit from having its own police department.”
He urged Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth to make the transition “a top priority.”
The mayor has issued statements after several recent high-profile crimes, using them to condemn the violence and make the case for a municipal force. After a shooting at a gas station in Clayton Heights at the end of September, he criticized the provincial government for a “lack of progress.”
But a Simon Fraser University criminologist says three months of crime data cannot show trends, only “blips.”
“You need to see four or five or six quarters in a row before you can start to talk about trends,” said Garth Davies. “To extrapolate from one quarter’s change is not something that can be done in a serious way.”
The statistician said he didn’t want to minimize the impact of any number of violent crimes, but he could see nothing in the data to suggest Surrey is any more violent or dangerous now than it has been in the last few years.
“This quarter in no way buttresses or helps any of the arguments the mayor is making (for a municipal police force),” he said. “He’s using statistics in a way that’s questionable.”
An RCMP report released earlier this year shows that violent crime in the city has actually decreased over the last decade to its lowest point in 10 years. The total number of Criminal Code offences in 2018 was below Surrey’s 10-year average.
McCallum’s political rival, Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis, also released a statement Thursday, saying Surrey is 52 police officers short of the hiring commitments made by the city in 2016. She blamed the mayor’s freeze on new officers for compromising public safety.
“As we wait for the province’s decision on the creation of a city police department, crime doesn’t take a holiday,” she said. “We’re starving the RCMP and ignoring the needs of our growing city, it makes absolutely no sense.”
But Annis stopped short of calling Surrey unsafe, saying that “it’s only a matter of time before the shortages take their toll on public safety.”