With files from Janet Brown
Of the 40 shootings in Surrey since January first this year, most of them have taken place in Newton.
CKNW’s Janet Brown went to Newton’s Unwin Park near 134th Street and 68th Avenue and talked with people there, asking them “do you feel safe living in Surrey.”
For the most part, the answer is “no.”
Problems only getting worse
Doug Elford has lived in Newton for years raising his family.
“You could go for a walk right now and see open prostitution within a block from this beautiful park where the kids are playing, there are homeless people, we have a real elevated level of homeless in our community.”
Elford says in the last little while it’s become even more noticeable.
“People are living in the streets and we’re victims of a lot of petty crime. These buildings behind us have been broken into almost on a daily basis at night because people are looking for warm places to sleep so a lot of the community is waking up to homeless people in their own buildings in this neighborhood and it’s a real concern for people when their own personal space is being affected by what’s happening out there.”
Not your normal nieghbourhood
Suzanne Aujla lives in Newton with her husband and is raising two teenaged boys.
“I think we all worry when we leave the door. Even with people who rent basement suites sometimes they are renting to whomever, we’ve been chased by crack addicts who are coming out of people’s basements because they’re looking for the fix. My husband was chased by someone with a knife down the street, this is just in your neighborhood.”
When asked if she thinks it’s a crazy way to live, Aulji says yes.
“Maybe we’ve all been conditioned but I don’t think people in Langley have to deal with these issues, and I don’t think they have to deal with them in South Surrey, and I don’t think they have to deal with them in Delta – but we do deal with them here. I had to get self-defence training, I have to get my kids awareness training.
Aujila calls it “the Newton parenting.”
Long time resident refuses to leave, despite the risks
Donna Paul has lived in Newton for over three decades.
“We haven’t felt safe in our community for a while now, it’s getting progressively worse. I’ve lived here for 32 years, my parents live here and my children. When it gets to the point that people don’t feel safe going for walks in their own neighborhood during the day, when they can’t carry purses anymore, when they’re worried about putting groceries in their cars, having hanging plants stolen from outside, cars, you name it.
Paul work at the elementary school and the park, and says she’s constantly concerned about the safety of the children in their neighborhood.
“I live in a second storey apartment, my patio door is closed all the time, I don’t go upstairs and do laundry and leave my patio door open, which is crazy. It’s ridiculous, but it is a fact and it’s our reality.”
She says even though a lot of people are moving out of Newton, she refuses to move.
“I love my community and the people, the changes we’ve seen especially in the last year are extreme, and I do believe there are things that can be done to change those events, to change the ways things are happening in this area. We have a lot of homelessness, we have a lot of prostitution, we have a lot of criminal activity. Nobody will take responsibility for any of it.”
But is Surrey in general getting a bad rap and being unfairly stereotyped?
Janet Brown also put that question to some residents of Surrey.
Marcie Kroeker is the President of the Fraser Heights Community Association, a community in North Surrey, relatively unaffected by the shootings and crime.
“Most definitely. I think when you mention you’re from Surrey to other people who live in the Lower Mainland the first topic that comes up is”do you feel safe in Surrey?” People are so aware of it, it’s in the news every other day about another shooting, another incident in Surrey, so I think whether you live in North Surrey, Fraser Heights, South Surrey, Newton, you’re all put in together into the full city of Surrey and people have this perception that you’re in an unsafe city.”
Kroeker says someone she knows just admitted to her that he’s embarrassed to mention to his colleagues that he lives in Surrey.
“He works in Vancouver and it’s just not a good perception that Surrey as a whole has – and I do feel that the City, mayor, RCMP need to take greater steps to try and ensure safety on the streets.”
She says while she’s not embarrassed to live in Surrey, at the same timeshe does feel like she has to respond to questions about the safety of living in Surrey.
“People always bring up those questions about safety.”
Naida Robinson calls herself a community advocate and raises her family in Newton while running a business on the waterfront with her husband. She says it’s a great city, but it’s growing too rapidly.
” I think we need to focus less on housing development, stop concerning ourselves with trying to cram in as many people into the city as we can until we start looking at our policing situation.”
She’s also concerned that overcrowding in the schools could lead to youth problems.
“We’re really taking a risk a risk at letting more children fall through the cracks. Because lots of times that is where unwanted behaviour can first be discovered…and if we’re overcrowded and beyond capacity…that’s where we are going to have problems.”