'This is not who we are': police chief's open letter on gun violence in Surrey
In an open letter to the residents of Surrey, the region's top officer responded to rallies held in the city asking officials to address ongoing gun and gang violence.
Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald wrote that Mounties are also feeling the impact of recent homicides, and that the safety of residents remains officers' top priority.
"We are working non-stop to find those responsible for these deplorable crimes and bring them to justice," the letter read.
"This is not who we are as a City. As your police chief I am committed and determined to doing everything I can to stop the continuation of this violence."
The letter followed the death of 47-year-old Paul Bennett, a nurse, kids' hockey coach and father of two who was gunned down in his own driveway over the weekend.
Earlier this month, the bodies of two other Surrey residents without criminal records were found on a Surrey roadside. Jaskarn Singh Jhutty and Jaskaran Singh Bhangal were just 16 and 17 when they were fatally shot.
Residents have expressed concern with both the number of killings and how few have been solved. There have been seven homicides in Surrey this year, and Mounties have not announced a single arrest.
In his letter Thursday, McDonald called the gun violence "senseless," and said the city should not let the actions of a few define it as a whole. He stressed the importance early intervention plays in keeping kids out of gangs, and asked for the community's continued support through initiatives such as youth mentoring.
"I am proud to represent this city and I thank you for the support you have shown to the Surrey RCMP," he said in closing.
His full statement follows:
Open letter to the residents of Surrey
June 28, 2018
To the residents of Surrey,
The Surrey RCMP, along with the community, are feeling the impact of the tragic homicides and senseless gun violence that this city has experienced in the past three weeks. Rest assured, your safety is our utmost concern.
Together with our partners at the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) and Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC), we are working non-stop to find those responsible for these deplorable crimes and bring them to justice.
This is not who we are as a City. As your police chief I am committed and determined to doing everything I can to stop the continuation of this violence. Surrey is a dynamic, growing city that has smart, talented youth and caring community members. We should not let our city become defined by the senseless actions of a few.
When violence hits our community, the efforts and performance of police are often called into question. As your police chief I fully accept this. The Surrey RCMP is transparent and accountable to you, the residents of this city. I am confident in our policing model and proud of the performance of our officers and municipal support staff. They do an exceptional job day in and day out, often placing their lives at risk in order to serve and protect. They care about this community and keeping Surrey residents safe. Not only are we your police force, but we are also your neighbours. A large number of our police officers live in Surrey and spend a significant portion of their policing careers here. We coach your children, volunteer at your schools, attend your places of worship and, like you, take any violence in this city personally. We are committed to working tirelessly on these issues and will not stop until they are resolved.
The Surrey RCMP provides a community-based policing model in which we work collaboratively with the community and local government to identify and respond to local policing needs. Over the past four years, gang violence has become an increasing community concern. We have responded by increasing our enforcement action, expanding our Surrey Gang Enforcement Team, working more closely with CFSEU-BC, and adding 8 new RCMP-led youth initiatives. In total, we lead or participate in 17 different initiatives that focus on helping youth stay on the right path. You can read about many of them on our website.
This week, the Surrey School District and Surrey RCMP sent a joint letter home to parents to share how we are engaged with their kids throughout the school year. Parents and youth can continue to engage with us throughout the summer via our Parent Helpline (604-599-7800) and Community Engagement Teams.
This issue of gang and gun violence is playing out across the Lower Mainland however, as a city with a large youth population, Surrey is a target for those looking to lure young people into the drug trade. Combatting this issue is my top priority. In addition to swift and impactful enforcement actions, the Surrey RCMP’s long-term strategy in addressing the issue of youth criminality is to promote positive choices for kids at a young age and provide accessible support and guidance to parents. We will also continue to conduct high quality investigations to ensure that criminals, once caught, go to jail.
There is no doubt that these are challenging times for Surrey. As your police force, we will deal with the crime and work diligently to bring those responsible to justice – that is our job. In order to successfully keep our youth and neighbourhoods safe over the long term, we need your continued support. We need to remain united, talk to our kids, and get involved in our communities in positive efforts such as Block Watch and youth mentoring.
I am proud to represent this city and I thank you for the support you have shown the Surrey RCMP.
Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald
Officer in Charge, Surrey RCMP