Maple Ridge council wants to tackle the issue of public safety, but is not unanimous about how to go about it.
By a narrow 4-3 vote, council endorsed its Community Social Safety Initiative process and terms of reference for its Community Society Safety Task Force on Sept. 17.
Mayor Mike Morden prefaced the presentation by saying how important the initiative is.
“The Community Social Safety Plan is a cornerstone to this council’s strategic plan. It’s important for us to do everything we possibly can to ensure this plan delivers on council’s goals and our expectations …” he said. Shortly after inauguration, mayor and council identified community safety as a priority, said Christina Crabtree, chief information officer, in a staff presentation.
“You want the citizens to feel safe, you want to reduce criminal activity, you want to make sure people have access to the services they need when they need them, and you want that all to happen in the capacity of the local service providers,” she said.
But members of council were critical of the plan so far.
“This is a two-year plan to make a plan,” said Coun. Gordy Robson, referring to a staff timeline that would see the strategy completed in 2021.
“Our community is being pillaged,” he continued.
Robson said citizens feel a lack of safety, merchants are afraid for their staff members, and they report that the same people come in and rob their stores every day.
“There are things they cannot put out for sale anymore, like prime rib meat, because it is stolen every day,” said Robson.
“It’s affecting the image and the branding of our community.”
Coun. Ryan Svendsen said the name of the plan may not be accurate.
“It might be better to call it ‘Stop The Same 80 People From Robbing All Our Local Businesses Every Single Day Plan,’” said Svendsen.
Coun. Ahmed Yousef would like to see more of a true safety focus on people and property.
He, Robson and Svendsen preferred to table the plan until the city has a new CAO on the job, but that was defeated.
Kelly Swift, acting chief administrative officer, said council was looking at a high-level planning process, without the detail.
“This is a significant planning process, and it is frustrating that it takes time to go through the planning process, but if we want to bring the community along with us, and engage the community, it is important that we have a fulsome process and don’t just jump into action.”
Coun. Judy Dueck called the safety initiative a “daunting task” and a “huge body of work” that should be done by staff, with outside supports and a united council.
Morden said council can take action to address issues while the plan is in development, but said the work must move forward.
“It’s a fact we need to be responsive, and respond to complaints in the community,” he said.
Crabtree noted there has been action taken already. The city added resources downtown to clean up needles and refuse in the town centre.
There have been more organized activities downtown. Additional security guards are working in the town centre. There is increased RCMP visibility through foot-beats, bike patrols and extended visibility downtown.
Morden said the election results were a clear message from voters.
“I know what we were all elected to do, the public told us very clearly what it was they wanted us to do,” said Morden.
“I know there is an enormous amount of political will at this table to deliver.
“I know all of here us fundamentally believe in a lot of the ingredients and what it’s going to take to deliver this work,” he added.
“The public will make sure we get this right. They always do.”