Let’s Support Our City – and Our Police

Two weeks ago, a contingent of downtown business people appeared in Council chambers to draw attention to their long festering frustration and anger at conditions in the downtown. Open drug dealing, ingestion of drugs, urine, feces, business people feeling threatened, and customers and clients being driven away have compelled these business people to bring the issue to the attention of the city.

But why is this issue being brought forward by the business community rather than by the leadership of the New Westminster Police Services?

This issue has been building for some time, why have Police Services been quiet about the issue? The same must be asked of the Police Board.

A recent article in the RECORD says the city has now hired a security company to patrol the downtown seven days a week, between 6:00 A.M and 10:00P.M. And now an article in the NEWSLEADER reveals that several businesses in the downtown are considering installing video surveillance cameras.

While video surveillance cameras certainly bring up issues of civil liberties, one has to ask why these merchants are moving in this direction with such desperation.

In 1999-2000, there was a situation in the downtown where scores of illegal immigrants from Central America, and others, were selling drugs in the downtown. In that case, as the seriousness of the situation mounted, the police were also silent on the issue. However, the Council of the day acted decisively and dealt with the situation effectively. That Council gathered the Police Board and senior police staff into a room and stated very clearly that the situation was out of control, that it was unacceptable, and that it would not be tolerated. As a result, a complex integrated plan of action was put forward by the senior management team. It was funded, it was executed, and with a tremendous effort the situation was resolved.

The July 16, 2008 RECORD reports that the city has once again put together an integrated plan. I believe the plan has merit given that the main architect of the plan is Lisa Spitale. However, I seriously doubt that the political leadership is capable of, or is even interested in, a long term sustainable solution to the problems that have taken hold of the Downtown.

The RECORD article outlines several measures intended to deal with the situation: Increased foot patrols, undercover operations, no-go orders from the courts, private security, enhanced street cleaning and maintenance, by-law enforcement and an off leash dog park were all put forward as examples of measures the city can implement. The July 16, 2008 RECORD quotes Mayor Wright response to the plan as follows: “That dog park is brilliant,” said Mayor Wayne Wright, “It will work.” Yes, that’s right, the Mayor, fresh from a junket to China, was able to zero in on the salient part of the plan — the dog park. Now if that doesn’t inspire confidence in the Mayor’s analytical prowess I don’t know what will.

New Westminster consistently ranks in the top two or three in the Metro Region in categories of crime per capita, police expenditure per capita, case load per officer and ranks low in clearance (solved crimes) rates. Given what is happening in the downtown, it is clearly time to take a serious look at a Regional Police Force. The public have shown a high level of interest in the idea of a Regional Police Force and Angus Reid polls reveal that the majority of residents in the region favour the creation of a regional force.

An examination of New Westminster’s Police Services provides several reasons for taking a serious look at a Regional Police Force: a highly politicized and ineffective Police Board and a moribund leadership in police services has led to low morale in the force, defections, premature retirements, a spotty record of dealing effectively with gender based issues and a commonly held view by the rank and file that the leadership is still trapped in the ‘eighties.’

Some months ago, when the Mayor was asked by the local press what his opinion on the issue of a Regional Police Force was, he stated that he was against it because nobody could explain to him what it would look like. After five years in the Mayor’s office, and a decade-long public discussion on the issue of a Regional Police Force, why is it beyond the grasp of Mayor Wright to envision what a regional force would look like?

Gang warfare in the Lower Mainland, again, has exploded, and individual municipal forces, including those municipalities served by the RCMP, are incapable of effectively dealing with it. Despite the creation of some regional integrated task forces, the patchwork of municipal forces has not been able to constructively deal with the situation.

Crime does not recognize borders. It is time to seriously examine the notion of a Regional Police Force. Several high ranking police personnel in the Lower Mainland (those who are allowed to speak on the issue by their mayors) have come out in support of a Regional Police Force. The B.C. Chamber of Commerce has expressed support for the idea, and Dr. Robert Gordon, head of SFU’s School of Criminology has presented a well thought out and compelling case for an amalgamated police force.

But Mayor Wright is against the idea because he doesn’t understand it, and may not even be capable of understanding it, just as he has failed to grasp the magnitude and impact of crime in the downtown.

Security cameras and the hiring of security personnel to patrol the downtown are the strongest evidence yet that our police services are simply incapable of providing safety and security in the downtown because of inadequate leadership. It is time for a serious examination of regional amalgamation of police services in the Lower Mainland and it is time for some leadership.


RE: Council Won’t Make it Harder to Seek Office

Editor The Record:
I was interested in the debate between councillors on whether or not to require more than two nominators to nominate a candidate wishing to run for office in the next civic election Nov 15. However, that is a minor change allowed by Bill 7 to the local government Act.

The changes that will have a dramatic effect on New Westminster are the new requirements for “campaign organizers” – organizations or individuals that run campaigns related to an election. Campaign organizers must have financial agents, like elector organizations and candidates. It is an offence to fail to have a Financial Agent and declare all revenues and expenses. It also appears that the legislation may apply to internal parallel campaigns, like those run by the labour council and CUPE in New Westminster in 2005.

During the 2005 city election Councillors Harper, Cote, and Williams ran with the endorsement of the labour council sharing the same Burnaby campaign office, campaign manager, phones and lists. They also assisted CUPE endorsed and self-professed choice of labour Wayne Wright over long-time CUPE member Casey Cook. School Board candidates Watt, Ewen, Janzen and Bennett shared the same resources. All of the above while claiming there were no slates in New Westminster.

Indeed, Voice New Westminster was formed as an independent multi-party response to the CUPE controlled labour council slate, and the significant unclaimed resources they are able to muster for their candidates.

I believe the changes brought by Bill 7 to municipal campaigning will shed some light on how the process really works in New Westminster .

Steve McClurg
(Royal City Record July 16, 2008)

Skytrain: Fare Control Zones – Do it Now!

Once again we read a series of articles in the papers regarding safety around some Skytrain stations. Ken Hardie, spokesperson for Skytrain, stated that in the case of these particular stations, the fact that they were situated in neighborhoods that were encountering crime issues, there was a carry over effect into the stations. This may very well be true. It could well be that Hardie’s statement is valid. One thing is sure, and that is that we have seen a litany of crime and safety issues associated with Skytrain and surrounding neighborhoods almost from the inception of the transportation system.
The rate of cheating has been estimated to be anywhere between four to ten percent. That is a pretty hefty rate. It will not pay for the expense of installing the fare control zones, but it will be a good start.
NDP critic, Adrian Dix had earlier called for the installation of the fare control zones. He was right in doing so. Now he is calling for increased security forces to ensure safety on the line.
There may be some political benefits for him to do so, but this time he’s got it wrong.
One consideration that is seldom figured in the financial analysis is the lost ridership experienced by Skytrain, particularly after 7:00 P.M. Many potential riders, particularly women, simply do not have the confidence and trust in the safety of the system to venture onto it after that time in the evening.
It is time to bite the bullet, and install security gates throughout the system. Do it now, before it gets even more expensive. This will virtually eliminate cheaters, it will increase ridership, offer a wider variety of passes and tickets, install machines to collect tickets as riders exit further reducing cheating, eliminate the need for more security personnel and police. Do all of these things and you will have a system that is much safer, more cost effective and significantly upgrades the level of service and public confidence in Skytrain. Do it now, stop the paralysis of analysis, in the long run it will be much appreciated by the current and potential users.
– C.C.

Post Script:
In reading the initial blog I realized I should do a better job of explaining the fare control system.
First, the station is enclosed with a perimeter wall, so that one must go through the turnstiles to enter and exit the system.
This enables the system to sell passes, tickets or entry based on a whole range of options. One can buy time based passes, or distance based passed or one time passes.
On entry to the system, the bar opens when a pass is inserted. The same procedure for exiting the system. At exiting, when the pass expires, or the distance purchased has been used up, the pass is not returned to the customer.
Riders can buy passes which best fit their needs.
It has been shown throughout the world that this system gives better choices for consumers, provides higher efficiency, increases security, and increase ridership and customer satisfaction.

The People’s History – an Opportunity to Share Your Stories

We all know that New Westminster is B.C.’s oldest community and was our province’s first capital. There are many fascinating stories that haven’t been published but now is your opportunity to share your family’s stories.

This year, you can become part of BC history. The Royal BC Museum wants your story – and your help in spreading the word about The People’s History Project, a website where people from across the province can share memories and stories of British Columbia from a personal point of view.

Filled with photographs, text, audio and video submissions, The People’s History Project is accepting story submissions until Jan. 11, 2009. Then it will live on in the BC Archives as an electronic time capsule of BC history as seen through the eyes of British Columbians in 2008 – the province’s 150th anniversary year.

You can make a big difference to this project. Here’s how:

Share your stories and photos
Share your own story about arriving, growing up, working or living in BC. Visit the website at www.freespiritbc.ca/peopleshistory, or call 250-381-4305 to record your story in your own voice. Your submission can be as simple as a family photograph.

Thank you for helping the Royal BC Museum record The People’s History for all British Columbians to share.

To learn more about the project, visit the website, or call or email them:
The People’s History Project
On the web: www.freespiritbc.ca/peopleshistory
Email: peopleshistory@royalbcmuseum.bc.ca
Phone: 250 381-4305

Follow the links below to read some of the stories they’ve already received:

Close Encounters of a Hairy Kind
It had started snowing again, and after I had I trekked along uphill for a ways, I noticed another set of tracks had joined the trail. Who on earth, I wondered, would be dumb enough to be out here in this wilderness in this weather (besides me, that is). Must be a bear, I thought, however, on closer inspection, I saw that the prints, deeply impressed into the new snowfall, seem to be made by a two-legged critter . . . [read full story]

A Christmas Gift
Frantically the cook bundled herself and her baby in warm clothes, and, with remarkable intuition, grabbed a bag of flour from the counter where she had been making donuts. Off they hurried to the site of the disaster. Remarkably this courageous woman was able to work her way down to her injured husband. There she applied flour to his massive, hemorrhaging head wounds. This simple act helped the clotting process. Doctors would later say her first aid actions may well have saved his life . . . [read full story]

The Best of Intentions
She struggled making her way along the road pulling the sleigh but still no sign of George, no beams of light from the car bouncing off the winter black trees. She paused tucking the blanket carefully around Arline again. She had to keep going but by now the cold was seeping deep into her bones and slowing down her progress . . . [read full story]