by Alex Browne - Peace Arch News, posted Mar 26, 2014 at 3:00 PM
Concerns about spiralling crime in Newton, including the Dec. 29 murder of hockey mom Julie Paskall, has led to the re-emergence of one of Surrey’s most visible police presences.
The Surrey RCMP Bike Squad has been patrolling throughout the city for several weeks, and public response to the six-member, yellow-jacketed team has been positive, according to the squad’s leader, Cpl. Neil Kennedy.
“The feedback we have received so far has been very encouraging,” he said.
“Residents and business are very pleased to see us out here, and being on bikes allows us to provide a much more personalized level of policing.”
Surrey’s bike squad was disbanded in the mid-2000s, media relations officer Cpl. Bert Paquet told Peace Arch News.
“At that time, priorities shifted, with the emphasis on an adequate number of general duty officers to improve on service delivery for the front line of response,” he said.
Since being reinstated three weeks ago, the squad has logged more than 140 street checks – resulting in 13 arrests for an assortment of Criminal Code and drug offences, seven Criminal Code charges being recommended and 35 provincial fines and bylaw tickets issued.
In addition, the team has been successful in arresting people not abiding by court conditions, and in getting a number of weapons off the streets.
Police say the aim of the proactive strategy is to make it “uncomfortable” for those intent on causing harm in the community.
In the aftermath of Paskall’s death after a vicious beating outside Newton Arena – in what appears to have been a random, unmotivated attack – and statistics that show the greatest number of murders in Surrey last year took place in Newton, the public has been urging a more visible police presence on the streets.
The return of bike patrols was one of a number of strategies Chief Supt. Bill Fordy – himself a former member of Surrey RCMP’s Bike Squad in the 1990s – said would be examined, during a Jan. 7 public meeting in Newton.
All of the officers on the current squad come from community policing backgrounds, and have a range of experience from general duty to investigative policing – plus the ability to access areas of the city that vehicle patrols can’t easily reach.
“They’re very silent, very covert, which gives us an advantage,” Paquet said, adding he, too, has had bike-patrol experience.
“The majority of residents are law-abiding, but for those few who are not, they don't see us coming – they don't expect a police officer on a bike," he said.
"They're very mobile and they can be easily deployed to specific areas if we see an issue emerging, or if we hear about a need by talking to people in the community."
As weather warms, Surrey RCMP says, the public can expect to see the bike patrol even more frequently at parks, school playgrounds and beaches, attending community events and providing traffic safety policing.
“This is a great example of the police and the community working together to solve issues of crime,” said Fordy,
“We need each other and we all share in the responsibilities of public safety.”