Crime dominated a Surrey mayoral debate last night on Shaw TV, with one candidate calling for the ouster of the RCMP chief superintendent and another claiming that the city knew of problems outside Newton Arena before last year's murder of hockey mom Julie Paskall.
Vikram Bajwa, an independent who supports the creation of a city police force, claimed that voters have lost faith in the RCMP.
"That's why the crime graph is going nuts," Bajwa said. "And the simple solution is Mr. Bill Fordy should take responsibility. He should resign."
Fordy has been chief superintendent of the Surrey RCMP since June 2012.
Last year, Surrey experienced a record 25 murders, including the killing of Paskall on December 29 when she was picking up her teenage son. A 27-year-old man from Ontario, Yosel Jomo Gopaul, has been charged with second-degree murder in Paskall's death.
One Surrey mayoral candidate Barinder Rasode said during the debate that city officials knew about unsafe conditions outside the recreation centre where the killing occurred.
"Two weeks before Julie Paskall was murdered, we cancelled—the city cancelled—a teen skate program because we knew there were safety issues," Rasode said. "At the time, instead of stepping up sand say 'we need to do things different', what everyone wanted to do was be quiet. I'm not prepared to be quiet when we know we have tragic deaths like Julie Paskall's or Mr. [Gurchuran Singh] Gill's beating in the park."
Rasode, a two-term councillor who split from Surrey First earlier this year, went on to say that she had called for more officers at closed meetings. This was challenged by one of her rivals, Surrey First's Linda Hepner, who's been on council since 2005.
"You know that it's simply not a true statement," Hepner charged. "You are misleading the public."
Hepner also demanded that Rasode reveal when she called for more police officers during her three-and-a-half-year stint as chair of the public safety committee.
"One tough mother would not have been muzzled if you're suggesting this is what happened," Hepner added, referring to Rasode's campaign slogan.
Rasode insisted what she said was true. She also noted that she chose not to be muzzled, which is why she left Hepner's caucus earlier this year to sit as an independent.
Meanwhile, Safe Surrey Coalition mayoral candidate Doug McCallum accused both of his major opponents, Hepner and Rasode, of only bringing forward crime-fighting suggestions at election time but not doing nearly enough during their last two terms on council.
That brought forth Hepner's retort that McCallum "had the worst record in the entire country of Canada" in spending on police, noting that the detachment went through four commanding officers during his three terms as mayor from 1996 to 2005.
At another point in the debate, Hepner said that there were only 496 officers in Surrey when Surrey First took power in 2005.
"I believe your record around creating a safe Surrey has been dismal and proven to be a failure," Hepner declared.
McCallum replied that for two years, Surrey couldn't get more officers because the RCMP training depot was shut down.
"It took another two years to get any RCMP officers," McCallum added.
Hepner said that her party will add 147 officers over two years, bringing the number of Mounties to 820. She also promised to lobby the province to create a specialized court for either bylaw offences or youth crime, and to build a "secure mental-health facility" in the city.
"We're prepared to come to the table with the province to make that happen, whether that's land dedication, whether that's forgiveness of development cost charges," the Surrey First candidate said.
McCallum pledged $5 million for "social development" to address addiction issues, as well as the addition of 142 police officers.
Rasode has promised 200 community-safety officers on the ground by 2015 "or council will take a 10 percent pay cut".
"We have created the only comprehensive plan in this election," Rasode added. "We'll get more boots on the street, tackle the root causes of crime, and help those with mental illness and addiction. The One Surrey crime plan will make Surrey the safest city in Canada."
Overall violent criminal offences were at their lowest level in Surrey in a decade last, year, according to a recent Surrey RCMP report. The number of overall offences in the city was at the lowest level since 2010.
However in the first three quarters of this year, there has been a 21 percent rise in Criminal Code offences over the same period last year.
These most recent statistics indicate that the murder rate is down 33 percent but there were 11 attempted murders, up from four over the first nine months of 2012.
There were also 24 abductions in the first three quarters, up from 18 over the same period of 2013. And property crimes are up 27 percent this year over the first nine months of last year.