Langley City wants to be “the place to be” for families, seniors, and other members of the public but not for criminals.
Arising from the linked issues of criminal activity, addiction and homelessness, the City has announced a Crime Prevention Strategic Plan, which arose from the Crime Prevention Task Group that the City created in March 2017.
The City has restructured and created the job of manager of bylaw services with a focus on public safety. Dave Selvage, who has more than 19 years as an RCMP officer, has been hired.
The RCMP has also increased bike and foot patrols. The plan also calls for increased RCMP presence in crime hot spots.
Recently, Langley City created a Problem Property Inspection Team which includes municipal, fire and police representatives to tackle nuisance properties that generate a lots of calls to the RCMP and the City, flop houses, party houses and houses used for criminal activity. The group will work to enforce City bylaws, Criminal Code offences, and other provincial and federal act violations. The group will work with the landlord to resolve the issues at rental properties.
The plan builds on some existing initiatives.
The City already has closed circuit TV at several sites, including Innes Plaza, McBurney Lane, and Douglas Park with signs notifying the public that there is surveillance.
Pachal said he’s not aware of any expansion to other sites but could be as another crime prevention measure.
“I know that the cameras have been used in investigations,” he said.
Pachal said the plan also includes bringing awareness to existing resources. He pointed to the Crime Watch and Business Watch programs, and the Crime Prevention Through Environment Design program. These are free programs available through the local RCMP.
“A lot of people, as we found out, don’t know these programs exist so we don’t want to reinvent that wheel,” he said.
The City will look at incorporating CPTED materials with business licence renewals “so people realize what’s available.”
He added that the City does CPTED reviews of its own parks and properties.
The City will work closer with the Downtown Business Association and the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce on incentive programs to help businesses improve safety and crime prevention. Pachal noted that there are already initiatives, such as the association’s program to help cover part of the costs for businesses to powerwash their exteriors.
Having tidy exteriors, removing litter and repairing things like broken windows are a form of crime prevention, he explained.
Another is encouraging people to use public spaces, that’s why the City with various partners has created more public events, such as the Summer Series in McBurney Plaza.
“That’s about bringing positive activities into those areas,” Pachal said. “Those negative activities usually don’t work well when there’s lot of eyes and ears out on the streets. It has the double benefit of building community.”
He said another key aspect of the plan will be a communications strategy to help spread the word about various initiatives to the groups that could benefit.
The City’s task group has a list of goals and a specific timeline.
“It’s supposed to wrap up by the end of this year,” he explained.
At the end of its term, the City will assess whether the task group needs to continue.
But if the underlying causes – addiction and homelessness – aren’t resolved, is the City effort worth it?
Pachal said other levels of government – Victoria and Ottawa – have responsibilities and there is a need for more addiction services, mental health services and housing.
“Everyone in local government is looking forward to working with the province and feds to solve this,” he noted.