Surrey needs brand new police force, mayoral candidate says
One of Surrey's mayoral candidates has proposed tackling the city's crime problem by replacing the RCMP with a new municipal police force – a solution critics say would take several years to actually implement.
If elected, Doug McCallum of the Safe Surrey Coalition has promised to "immediately" move toward the creation of a new Surrey Police Department, which he argues would better serve the community.
"The management and direction of the RCMP in Surrey is done in Ottawa, so all the decision making is done in Ottawa," said McCallum, who previously served as mayor from 1996 to 2005. "We need to have that decision-making out here in the city."
But fellow mayoral hopeful and two-time Surrey city councillor Bruce Hayne said residents shouldn't hold their breath waiting for a speedy transition from RCMP to a municipal police force.
Hayne co-chairs the local government contract committee for the RCMP in B.C., and said the city would be obligated to give two years' notice before even beginning the transition process.
"And then there's a four- or five-year transition plan that would need to take place," Hayne said.
The costs would also be considerable; he said Surrey could have to spend tens of millions of dollars just for the transition, which would involve capital costs, recruitment costs and legal costs.
A 2015 report exploring the possibility of such a transition in Richmond – a city with a much smaller RCMP detachment – estimated it would require $19.6 million.
The day-to-day costs of operating a municipal force would likely be much higher as well, Hayne added.
Government statistics show Vancouverites, who are served by a municipal force, paid a per capita cost of $422 per person for policing in 2016, compared to $272 per person in Surrey.
"There's been a call for a review of policing in Surrey and I certainly support doing a review and looking at what the costs might be," Hayne said. "It would be a very, very expensive proposition."
McCallum also said he would also task his municipal force with implementing "Predictive Policing Analytics," a high-tech tool he believes could make a big difference in the fight against crime.
"This is very effective in cities around the world," said McCallum. "We want to use this program to analyze where (crimes) happen and maybe where some of the people who are committing the crimes live."
Though the concept might conjure the far-fetched Tom Cruise thriller "Minority Report," one form of predictive policing technology is already in use elsewhere in the Lower Mainland.
Last year, Vancouver implemented a system focused on curbing property crime specifically, though McCallum said he would like to see Surrey police figure out a way to apply it more broadly.
"We're talking about all crimes, but in particular in Surrey we have a lot of gun violence and drive-by shootings," he said.
Surrey's gang violence is expected to be a key issue in the upcoming election, with candidates proposing various approaches to solving the problem.
Surrey First mayoral candidate Tom Gill has pledged to put $50-million toward a program of "prevention, intervention and new policing." A portion of the budget would be used to give kids and teenagers free access to the city's pools, ice rinks and gyms to help keep them on the right side of the law.
Gill has also suggested the city could hold a referendum on getting a new police force in 2019.
Beyond McCallum's predictive analytics proposal, the Safe Surrey Coalition has pledged to implement a Surrey Bar Watch program similar to the one that's been in place in Vancouver for more than a decade.
Bar Watch establishments recently decided to dish out lifetime bans to any bar or nightclub patron caught carrying a knife or other weapon.
McCallum said he would order police to implement a Bar Watch program right away after taking office.
The Surrey RCMP detachment told CTV News it supports a review of the city’s policing that’s already been requested by City Hall, but will not comment further during the election.
"As Surrey's local police force we are committed to public safety and will continue to proudly serve the community, while remaining impartial during the election process. As such, it would not be prudent for us to comment on candidates' platforms during the election period," Sgt. Chad Greig said in an email.
The RCMP did say it’s currently researching different predictive policing platforms, and that it already uses "a variety of business intelligence models and crime analysis tools to identify patterns, trends and inform operational deployment" of officers.