Former MLA Carol Gran says Langley City’s social ills factored into the death of an elderly mugging victim this summer, and believes amalgamation with the Township would make things better for residents.
On the afternoon of July 14, an 86-year-old woman was robbed as she walked on 56 Avenue near 201A Street. A female suspect took the elderly victim’s wallet, removed the cash then dropped the wallet when the victim struck her with her cane.
The robbery victim, who suffered a broken ankle and severe bruising in the incident, has since passed away.
Gran was neighbours with the victim in a Langley City apartment complex, located not far from where the mugging occurred.
“Vera was 86, a vibrant senior with a lot of life left to live, only at 2:30 one afternoon she was mugged and beaten just around the corner from where she lived, where I live, and now she is gone,” Gran said in a letter to the Times.
“That kind of trauma would affect any one of us, but at 86 it is deadly and so wrong. There are no excuses for the perpetrator and we should all be deeply concerned.”
After two years of living near the downtown area, Gran says she has reached the conclusion that Langley City cannot deal with this problem on its own.
Gran served as Langley MLA from 1986 to ’91. Prior to that, she was a Langley Township Councillor from 1981 to ’86.
After calling Langley home for many years, Gran is moving to Victoria. Before she leaves, she decided to speak her mind.
“It’s time to face this menace head on, and it starts at City Hall,” Gran wrote in the letter.
“Those of us who live in the City core are on the front line of all that’s wrong in our community. My patience is exhausted, I have no sympathy left, I’m simply sick and tired of people who abuse us and the system.
“I’m sick of kicking people out from underneath my deck, of finding people shooting up in the shrubs, of worrying about young children playing in Linwood Park while drug addicts shoot up nearby and of knowing how vulnerable our seniors are. It’s time to get tough, to care about the stress on law abiding tax paying citizens.
“I feel sorry for the police and other first responders who carry the load pretty much alone. I feel sorry for City staff that have to clean up the mess left behind. I feel sorry for where we are today, but that’s not enough, we have to do something.”
Gran says the City is no longer the place she remembered.
”There’s at least a dozen methadone clinics, there’s a thrift store on every corner and in between. It’s not somewhere a family would drive into and say, ‘Oh boy, this is where we want to raise our kids.’”
Langley City Mayor Ted Schaffer said the City is working “very hard” with the RCMP and outside agencies to address the problems that are happening in and around downtown.
Schaffer said the City is dealing with these issues to the “best of our ability” but “the courts and the constitution only allow us to go so far.”
“The two higher levels of government have to step up and be engaged,” he said.
Vera and her identical twin sister lived side-by-side in apartments, according to Gran, adding that the tragedy of Vera’s death is overwhelming.
“We should just all be sick,” Gran said. “We all have mothers and grandmothers. They can say she died of heart failure. Maybe she did. But can you imagine to an 86-year-old, what that does, the trauma?”
Gran said Vera was on the building’s strata council and was a “smart, active woman.”
Learning of Vera’s death was the “last straw” for Gran.
“It’s gotten to the point where women, and some of the older men, don’t want to walk around here at night,” Gran said.
Gran believes the key to curbing much of the crime and homelessness in the City is to amalgamate the City with Langley Township, a move that she says is long overdue. She believes it’s time to eliminate the expense of two governments and “work together to for the good of 120,000 people.”
“I firmly believe that if the City had amalgamated with Langley Township years ago, when they should have, that this would not have happened,” Gran said, regarding Vera’s death.
“For years they have used fear tactics to keep Langley City citizens in line,” Gran wrote in the letter. “Our taxes will go up for one, another, we don’t want to share the casino money and staff will lose their jobs. That may or may not be true. So let’s start the process and see what the real answers are.”
Gran said the City’s infrastructure is crumbling and needs to be replaced, adding that “20,000 people can’t afford to do that.”
She said amalgamation should have been forced.
“It’s ridiculous to have 20,000 people living inside the borders of another municipality and calling itself a city.”
Gran said with the provincial government taking the lead, an “exhaustive process will provide all of the hard data needed to make a sound decision.”
“It will tell us whether taxes will go up or down, whether services will improve or not. At the end of the process both sides will have a chance to vote yes or no,” Gran noted in the letter.
“There is more power for City residents as a part of the bigger picture than as a small place riddled with problems and it makes the entire Langley population part of the solution. Currently Langley City carries the burden alone. So unfair.”
Schaffer said amalgamation is not in the City’s future.