In the wake of a deadly daylight shooting at a gas station in Clayton Saturday, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says a municipal force is needed now “more than ever.”
At least one Surrey councillor is accusing him of “fear-mongering” and “politicizing a tragedy.”
“The continued gun violence has created a sense of unease throughout the city,” said McCallum in an emailed statement to media early Monday morning, after a Surrey man in his late-20s was gunned down while sitting in a black Mercedes-Benz G-Class vehicle at a gas pump in the 18600-block of Fraser Highway at approximately 6 p.m. on Sept. 28.
“With the province giving us the green light to establish our own Surrey Police Department, the community believes now, more than ever, that we need to work as quickly possible to get SPD officers out on the streets,” the mayor’s statement read. “The lack of progress to date is disappointing and is unfortunately due to bureaucratic red tape. The community has made it clear to me that there is a sense of urgency and they want meaningful work to get underway immediately to bring Surrey Police to fruition. We owe it to the people of Surrey to make this transition as quickly and smoothly as possible.”
McCallum said violent criminals are “becoming bolder.”
“Our citizens are frustrated and, rightfully, fearful,” the statement read. “Saturday’s shooting happened in broad daylight, at a gas station with shops nearby. I am thankful that innocent bystanders were not hurt in this latest shooting. The situation appears to be getting worse with each incident, as the gangs are so embolden that they don’t think twice about opening fire in daylight, in public areas or near schools.”
Independent Surrey Councillor Jack Hundial, a former Mountie and former member of the mayor’s team, accused McCallum of “politicizing a tragedy.”
“Clearly it’s a press release that does nothing to provide comfort to the community,” Hundial told the Now-Leader shortly after the mayor issued his statement. “Instead, it drives a very focused political agenda.”
Hundial noted that in the city’s last budget cycle, there was a hiring freeze on new RCMP officers despite the city’s top cop asking for more resources in the growing city. He also referred to a “Wake Up Surrey” delegation at council earlier this year, which called for 300-plus additional police officers to be hired to properly staff the detachment.
“And if you look forward to the next three years, that gap is going to continue to widen,” Hundial remarked.
Hundial said he doesn’t think it’s fair that the mayor is criticizing the province’s timeliness. Hundial said the approval the province gave on Aug. 22 was to take the proposed transition plan “to the next level for review.”
“No one knows why we’re doing it, what the cost is going to be and certainly what the impacts are going to be. All you’re doing is fear-mongering,” said Hundial, suggesting unanswered questions are “a challenge now for those reviewing” the plan.
“It’s not like Minister Farnworth showed up with $200 million saying here’s your 805 police officers. We have to keep it realistic.”
Hundial said in his travels speaking to residents, he finds the majority just want more police resources on the ground.
“I find his press release really disappointing and disingenous.”
It has been roughly five weeks since the provincial government gave its approval to Surrey’s plan to transition from RCMP to a municipal force, with former attorney general Wally Oppal appointed to head a task force to oversee the transition.
A joint statement from Minister Mike Farnworth and Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum on Aug. 22 said “to ensure all key issues are addressed and all complex details are in place to facilitate an orderly transition, a joint project team has been struck.
It stated that a transition committee would “work expeditiously to provide advice to the Director of Police Services through to the Solicitor General relating to the establishment of Surrey’s municipal police department.”
The City of Surrey’s proposed transition plan to convert from RCMP states the force will “go live” on April 1, 2021 and its operating costs will be $192.5 million that year.
That’s a 10.9 per cent increase from the $173.6 million the city projects the RCMP would cost that year. The report states that a unionization drive is underway within the RCMP and if achieved, “the gap between the cost of the Surrey RCMP and the cost of the Surrey PD would be eliminated.”
There are also an estimated $39.2 million in start-up costs.
Meantime, homicide investigators are reaching out to witnesses after Saturday’s deadly shooting.
The windshield of the vehicle, which was eventually covered with a tarp by the RCMP, had at least eight bullet holes in it.
According to a witness, a masked suspect reportedly approached the SUV and fired up to 10 shots before running from the scene.
Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) Sgt. Frank Jang spoke to media Sunday morning and said police have identified the victim.
Police are not releasing his identity, as some of his immediate family members have not yet been informed of his death, Jang said.
“This does have the earmarks of a targeted hit,” Jang said. “At this point, I can only share with you that he was known to police.”
-Files from Aaron Hinks