Surrey needs more cops to increase safety: reviews

Monday, October 20th, 2014 @ 11:52AM

Surrey’s police committee endorsed the top cop’s call for 47 new officers Tuesday, following the release of two studies of the detachment’s operations that both found a shortage of officers.

Those 47 are in addition to the 95 officers and 20 community safety personnel the city has committed to hiring over the next five years. The increases will bring the detachment to 815 members.

In advance of the police committee meeting, Surrey RCMP declined to comment on how soon Mounties would be trained and on city streets, if approved.

During Tuesday’s police committee meeting, Officer in Charge of the Surrey RCMP Bill Fordy explained that once higher levels of government sign off on the additional cops, the detachment has one year to fill the new positions. Because of that, he said it’s hard to say exactly when the officers could hit the streets.

It’s not clear how the city intends to pay for the additional officers.

With current population estimates for Surrey being roughly 510,000 for 2014, that would work out to a ratio of one officer for 626 people – high enough to surpass the city’s Crime Reduction Strategy’s target of one officer for every 700 residents. But with the city’s population growing by an estimated 1,000 people a month, by the time new cops hit the streets, that ratio will change.

After the city’s police committee endorsed Fordy’s request for more officers, he issued a statement. “After analyzing significant amounts of qualitative and quantitative data, both reports concluded that Surrey Detachment requires additional front-line police officers to support the level of policing service that we strive to provide for the City of Surrey,” he said in the release. “In addition to significantly enhancing our general duty, I will also be reviewing our staffing needs in Traffic Services, Youth Section and Investigative Services.”


One of the studies released Tuesday was led by Dr. Irwin Cohen, a policing expert at the University of the Fraser Valley, who is also the RCMP Research Chair.

The report looked at Surrey’s crime rate, and found that while population grew by 11 per cent from 2008 to 2012, total criminal code offences dropped by five per cent.

Meanwhile, Surrey’s Crime Severity Index was 114.32 in 2013 – nearly the highest in the province, second to only Prince George with 137.04.

Cohen’s report says current staffing levels for general duty are “insufficient given the workload demands.”

The first recommendation in the report is that additional general duty officers are required.

It goes on to say “once staffing levels have increased, the detachment can increase the amount of proactive patrolling.

“Resolving these two challenges in the first instance will reduce the workload burden on members and increase public safety,” it states.

To become more proactive, the report recommends increasing visibility in the community and allocating resources to focus on the large number of prolific offenders in Surrey.

It also found, “greater effectiveness and efficiencies may be gained by breaking down district lines for calls for service and creating smaller sectors.”

It states, “Surrey is a great example of the challenges in trying to substantially reduce crime without a full and sustained capacity to respond and prevent crime.”

Other recommendations include looking at determining the appropriate level of resources for investigative services; improving accountability and performance measures; improving detachment communication; strategies to encourage and increase public engagement and communication; assigning additional members and making changes to the Youth Section; and expanding the Car 67 program to reduce the number of general duty officers who respond to mental health issues.

The second report, which looked at general duty staffing, was compiled by Peter Bellmio.

Bellmio’s report shows in 2013 GDCs (general duty constables) spent more than half their time responding to calls for service. “Less time is available for proactive work in neighbourhoods to anticipate and prevent crime,” it states.

“That is a very high percentage for a municipal patrol force,” Bellmio’s review says. “The result is that policing with this staffing level is more reactive rather than proactive.”

The report says Surrey has “significantly longer” response times than other communities across Canada.

While there’s no official standard for emergency response times, many agencies – such as Calgary, Edmonton and Los Angeles – believe seven minutes is acceptable. In Surrey, the average emergency response time is 8.5 minutes.

The average response time for urgent calls was found to be 11.7 minutes and roughly an hour and a half for routine calls.

Abandoned 911 calls and alarm calls make up 20 per cent of calls in the city.

In 2013, Surrey RCMP received 10,149 alarm calls and 92 per cent were false. More than 3,500 hours of general duty constable time was spent responding to false alarms – which translates to 297 12-hour shifts, equivalent to the cost of just over two general duty constables a year.

Also in 2013, 19,574 calls were dispatched that were initially abandoned 911 calls. Only two per cent of those required police assistance.

Other recommendations include modifying the current GDC work schedule and expanding the use of alternatives to dispatching non-emergency calls such as taking non-emergency reports by phone and online.