Langley City needs plan to deal with criminal element

Editor: The following letter was forwarded to the Mayor Ted Schaffer and every single Langley City Council member.

Dear Mayor Schaffer and Langley City Council:

My name is Matt Wildman and I’ve been a resident of the City of Langley for the past four years.

I wanted to begin by congratulating you and council on moving in to a brand new civic facility, situated in the heart of the downtown core of Langley City. This central location no doubt allows for council to project its strategic objectives and ultimately guide the city in a positive direction.

Conversely, it is from this central location that I know affords you a frontline view of a few of the issues that are growing in visibility and severity, and the reason why I am contacting you today.

I know Langley City has always struggled with being a convergence point for criminals, drug dealers, drug addicts, and other undesirable individuals. I have watched this problem grow exponentially worse over the last year, to the point where it is now impossible to drive down Fraser Highway without observing caravans of bicycle-riding vagrants and shopping-cart-pushing nomads operating in plain sight.

These groups of unsavoury individuals congregate openly, unopposed, on the corner of Fraser Highway and Douglas Crescent, and at the car wash on Fraser Highway just west of Save-On-Foods. As a 10 year veteran of law enforcement myself, including eight years as a correctional officer and supervisor with BC Corrections, I recognize many of these individuals as former charges of mine at one point or another.

I’m well aware of Council’s desire to make the Langley City downtown an attractive place to settle for business and an attractive place to visit for individuals. That will never happen if this pattern is allowed to continue. These repeat convicted criminals and habitual drug users are people that we do not want to make comfortable or welcome within our City. Habitual drug use is fed by none other than property crime and Langley City, unsurprisingly, has a property crime problem. Property crime repels new investment, business, and visits, Mr. Mayor, and these individuals are responsible for a large portion of that.

That these individuals are setting up camp daily within a stone’s throw of City Hall is unacceptable to me, and it should be unacceptable to you and the rest of council as well. To this point, Council has not appeared to acknowledge that this is a problem, never mind making it a priority to devise a plan to deal with it.

Far too commonly, the civic solution to issues such as these is to request “more resources” to bolster the local RCMP detachment. While I’m sure no harm can come of this, we should be taking a long hard look at current resources and if they are being utilized most effectively.

I’m of the belief that they aren’t. Routinely, one can find RCMP officers parked in unmarked SUVs on Fraser Highway, observing motorists and pulling over people for seatbelts and cellphones.

Meanwhile, the bicycle riding and shopping cart-pushing property criminals lounge a couple hundred yards down the street unfettered and unopposed. The optics of this are terrible, not only to taxpayers but to criminals and troublemakers. It smacks of “path of least resistance” policing and mislaid priorities at departmental and municipal levels, and I want to suggest that this is not the message we should be sending to anyone.

I’m the first to acknowledge that crime is not an easy issue to address, and crime is never truly solved or eliminated but merely displaced. Shouldn’t we at least be trying to do something about it though, starting with police officers that are out pursuing criminals instead of errant seatbelts? I have no doubt that the Langley RCMP are well aware of the criminals operating in our midst, as evidenced by the heaps of surveillance photos posted online on their website for public identification, weekly.

I really do believe that Langley City can be a great place to live, work, and do business, but this is a glaring and pressing concern that requires the attention of council and our local RCMP detachment without further delay.

The purpose of this letter, today, was to respectfully request that.

Thank you for your time. With kind regards,

Matt Wildman

Langley City