Langley City mayor Ted Schaffer shows the new crime prevention committee a binder containing six months’ worth of pictures of people who have committed crimes or have been aggressive or obnoxious inside the notorious Langley City 7-Eleven. The store has put up fencing in the back to discourage people from hanging out there.

Langley City mayor Ted Schaffer shows the new crime prevention committee a binder containing six months’ worth of pictures of people who have committed crimes or have been aggressive or obnoxious inside the notorious Langley City 7-Eleven. The store has put up fencing in the back to discourage people from hanging out there.

Langley City neighbourhood called a ‘perfect storm’ for crime

Crime prevention expert says cluster of social services in the City is creating ‘street stress’



It’s being called ‘the perfect storm.’

In a two-block radius in downtown Langley City, there is a clustering of all major social services helping the down-and-out. It is creating challenges and stresses for such a small city.

With welfare, parole, probation, social service agencies of both provincial and local governments, faith-based services, drug rehabilitation, the bus loop right beside an at-risk youth centre, it has created “street stress,” said Greg Perkins of Liahona Security Consortium Inc. who took the newly-formed Community Crime Prevention Task Force on a walking tour of downtown Langley hot spots on Friday. Perkins is a former Ontario police officer who now specializes in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

More than a dozen members of the Task Force, chaired by Mayor Ted Schaffer, met for the first time, to see with their own eyes the challenges Langley City faces when it comes to crime and preventing it.

Perkins, who has consulted in problem areas like Whalley and Newton, said Langley City is three years into a 10-year tipping point. Once you go over that tipping point, your streets have descended into chaos and the difficulties of getting that community back are beyond challenging.

He pointed to Whalley many years ago, when it had hit the tipping point.

“We studied Whalley and at that point there were 10,000 calls for police service in six months. That is too overwhelming for any police agency to handle,” Perkins said.

But the expert on CPTED said social and criminal problems can’t be fixed with enforcement alone.

“It has to be a community effort,” he said. That includes businesses making an effort too, in the look and design of their buildings.

He said the key marker is families.

“You want families shopping, visiting your downtown. If they don’t feel safe, they just won’t come,” he said.

He pointed to the large amount of fringe businesses concentrated in the downtown, from cheque cashing, pawn and sex shops, vapour and drug paraphernalia shops to the number of pharmacies.

“You guys have 13 methadone dispensaries in a one-quarter km radius. I would ask why there is so many?” Perkins said.

To that end, the City is revisiting that situation soon, said Schaffer.

It was pointed out that when the City put in a bylaw limiting cheque cashing businesses, they culled themselves. The City went from 13 down to just three.

Perkins said the fringe businesses in themselves are legitimate, but it is the clientele they bring in that create an ebb and flow of problems.

In touring the bus loop, with its backdrop of empty storefronts, he said it appears “as an island on its own” with no connection to the businesses or environment around it.

He added that he would not want to get off a bus at the Logan Avenue bus loop.

The group was taken into the back parking lot behind St. Joseph’s Church where homeless people have come for years to the soup kitchen. But some have also have been known to hang around there, setting up pop-up tent cities and leaving their shopping carts behind.

The front of the church had to be gated because some homeless people were defecating near the entrance.

It was learned that several businesses in the downtown have gotten rid of or are considering getting rid of the awnings because homeless have been using them for shelter. Business owners continue to have to clean up feces.

The City has also developed a homelessness task force to address the growing issue. City manager Francis Cheung said the City is being very careful not to push hard against those living on the streets, being mindful of what has happened in Abbotsford.

There the City took an offensive approach and created an issue of entrenchment, with the homeless creating their own tent city.

“It’s a delicate balance we must strike,” said Cheung.

Two Langley RCMP officers whose beat is the downtown core are on the committee. They’ve noticed, as have service providers, that more and more homeless people from the Downtown Eastside are choosing to move out to areas like Langley City, where they don’t have to fight for services and its safer.

While touring near the 7-Eleven, at 203 Street and Douglas Crescent, a man stole some chocolate bars from the store and a police officer on the tour tried to track him down. He had been confrontational in the store, police heard.

From there, Schaffer shared a four-inch thick booklet the store keeps of six months worth of pictures of people who have either stolen or created a disturbance at the store.

He said it is frustrating and scary for staff to deal with on an ongoing basis, but it is one of the few stores open 24 hours a day.

The area outside the convenience store has been a hot spot for more than a decade for prostitution, drug dealing and serious violence, including a Good Samaritan being beaten in the head with a hammer by two assailants who were never caught a few months ago.

The store has made many efforts, including playing French music to deter loitering.

Cheung said Langley City, at 6.9 per cent, has the third highest percentage of rental units in Metro Vancouver, with only Vancouver and Burnaby having more.

The City has no intentions of dissuading that type of housing because it provides affordable living for many, but it does pose challenges of transient residents and lack of community ownership.

The task force plans to meet once a month, to make suggestions that will help in crime prevention.

Among those who attended the first meeting were Langley City RCMP Staff Sgt. Dave Carr, Neil Dubord, chief of Transit Police, Sonya Perkins, Downtown Langley BIA chair, Randy Sears of Gateway Casinos and bylaw officer Raminder Uppal.