Property crime jumped 24 per cent in Surrey last year as compared to 2013, according to year-end crime statistics released Friday by the Surrey RCMP.
Theft of motor vehicles skyrocketed 54 per cent and fraud was up 58 per cent.
Incidents of stolen property also shot up by 47 per cent. The number of times Surrey residences were broken into also increased by 24 per cent.
And while homicides dropped in Surrey last year, 2014 was still the fourth-highest year for murders in the city’s history.
There were 17 murders last year, down 32 per cent from 2013’s all-time record of 25 homicides in Surrey.
The next highest years were in 2005, when Surrey logged 21 homicides, and 2009, when the city experienced 20 killings, according to B.C. Ministry of Justice figures.
Last year was the next highest.
On a brighter note, prostitution was down in Surrey by 43 per cent last year and theft of merchandise over $5,000 decreased by 20 per cent.
The statistics, available on the Surrey RCMP website at http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca, also break out figures by policing district.
District 3, which includes Cloverdale and Port Kells, reported a 10-per-cent jump in violent crime, the second highest out of the city’s policing districts. (District 2, covering Guildford and Fleetwood had the highest jump in violent crime at 12 per cent).
John Gibeau, president of the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce, isn’t too concerned about the recent statistics.
Gibeau is well-placed to comment on the stats, as he served as a police officer for 16 years with Burnaby RCMP and New Westminster Police. He dealt with crime statistics on an ongoing basis.
The increases in Cloverdale could be the result of one or two people being released from jail and wreaking havoc, he believes.
“Stats can be deceiving,” Gibeau said in an interview Tuesday. “You can get one bad actor who moves into an area and distorts short-term crime stats.”
Gibeau did note the police in Surrey could be doing a better job.
He’d like to see the Surrey RCMP come down harder and quicker on repeat offenders.
Gibeau says 80 per cent of crimes are perpetrated by 20 per cent of offenders. If the Mounties concentrated more on those few, crime would drop dramatically, he believes.
“Police know who they are and the police are responsible to put them in jail,” Gibeau said. “That crack house that opens, as soon as they know about it, go after them. Don’t wait until you have 15 crack houses and go after the most active.”
When done properly, the strategy displaces the criminals over and over to the point where they just give up or move out of the province, Gibeau said.
Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said much more must be done about combating crime and it can’t be simply left to police.
“The RCMP is only a piece of the puzzle,” Huberman said.
She said root causes of crime, such as mental illness and addictions, must also be tackled by senior levels of government.
“We do feel that people need to report more,” Huberman said. “When people report more, it may seem like crime is on the increase, but in that way we can also collaboratively address what’s happening on the ground.”
NDP MPs Jinny Sims (Newton-North Delta) and Jasbir Sandhu (Surrey-North) pointed the blame for Surrey’s crime squarely at the Conservatives in Ottawa.
“There has been a lot of Conservative talk in the past few days about safety, but not a single cent put towards more resources for police,” said Sims. “A year ago the provincial NDP proposed the Surrey Accord, a common-sense approach that would put more police on our streets.”
Sandhu said the Conservatives have largely been ignoring Surrey.
Huberman agrees that the federal government needs to step up and do more, as does the province.
More police officers, meaningful sentencing in the justice system and management of mental health issues all need to be part of the mix, she said.
Doing nothing is not an option, she said.
“The brand of our city is being compromised,” Huberman said.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner is in Toronto at a Big City Mayors’ Caucus, but said by voicemail the figures were fairly typical except for the spike in property crime. She said the police have initiatives under way to reduce them.