Recently I read in the local papers that current statistics indicate crime is on the decline in New Westminster and across Canada. I sit on the New Westminster Community Police representing the Moody Park Resident Association. I’ve heard first hand from the New Westminster Police Department that crime in New Westmister has gone down and I believe what I’ve heard. But does that change my behaviours? Not really. Are my perceptions different than they were 2 or 3 years ago? Regrettably, no.
I have the advantage and disadvantage of living on 8th Avenue in Moody Park. It’s a nice neighbourhood that is transitioning well into a ‘better’ neighbourhood. The older homes are being purchased and renovated or restored, which wasn’t happening when we first moved into our home 6 years ago. I like to think that as each of us does our little thing to make our properties better, our neighbours are inspired to carry on the new practice, and little by little our neighbourhood improves. Whereas older heritage homes were being neglected and torn down, I see renos going on, new paint and gardens popping up. All these things are good. Perhaps Moody Park may never reach Queens Park stature in my lifetime, but there is a steady positive progression that is reassuring.
However on a recent Sunday morning, four separate police cars sped by the house within a half an hour – sirens blaring, flashing lights and going what had to be 100 km/hr. This happens throughout the day and night, every day. What impression does that make on residents who don’t get the personalized updates about crime stats? By the way, it’s not unusual to see/hear multiple responses to an event – police, fire and ambulance – as each agency jockeys to arrive first, take command and add to their statistics. There are times when my street feels under siege. We nervously joke that people are dropping like flies in the neighbourhood. I’ve lived in several cities across Canada, in larger communities than New West, and I’ve never experienced this at this magnitude.
From a personal perspective, I won’t walk anywhere in New West at night by myself, including my own street. I won’t run an errand on 12th Street after sundown. I won’t walk through Moody Park when there are groups of young men hanging out. Ironically when I attend the Police Committee meetings, which are held at the police station, I won’t park in the parkade after dark, and I won’t park on the side streets around the police station – after dark or otherwise. I simply don’t feel safe. I wonder if anyone will respond if I find myself in a situation. Other than emergency responses, we rarely see a police presence in Moody Park.
A few days ago, a woman strung out on something tried to get into my house in the middle of the day! On the same day, I received a phone call from a resident only a few blocks away, wanting to get some help from the Moody Park Residents Association because she repeatedly witnesses drug deals going down in front of her building. This isn’t the first resident to watch drug deals go down in front of their homes. I have firsthand accounts from at least three residents within 4 blocks of each other on the same street describing their frustrations that the police appear to be nothing about the drug deals. It’s a sad state of affairs when you not only know the cars the dealers drive, but you can also call them by name. And now there’s a new ‘girl’ working 12th Street, just when we thought the street was cleaned up. The stats may indicate crime is decreasing in New Westminster and across the country, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.
Crime may be going down, but do residents feel safe? I don’t think so. We may have a long way to go before people will instinctively say that we live in a safe city.
– Voice director, Jan Fialkowski