In the heart of Surrey's bustling business district, a sense of unease has settled following a series of alarming incidents that have gripped the community. The seemingly business-as-usual surroundings of the Payal Business Centre, home to a myriad of South Asian businesses, have been marred by a recent surge in criminal activities, raising concerns among residents and entrepreneurs alike.
The unsettling chain of events began with an armed robbery on November 22, 2023, at a business in the 8100 block of 128 Street within the Payal Business Centre. The Surrey RCMP swiftly responded to the incident, reporting that one person sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was promptly transported to the hospital. The suspects, making a hasty getaway in a dark-colored pickup truck, managed to evade capture.
Just as the community grappled with the aftermath of the brazen daylight robbery, another blow struck the following day. In the early morning hours of November 23, 2023, shots rang out, targeting a business in the same plaza. The business, later revealed to be RK Jewellers, bore the evidence of a shooting, with bullet holes in its windows. Fortunately, the store was closed at the time, and no injuries were reported.
Further, Amidst a concerning surge in violent incidents, community members, particularly those in the public eye, are grappling with a heightened sense of insecurity. Recent reports reveal targeted attacks and shootings, prompting individuals, including notable figures, to express feelings of vulnerability. Some have taken drastic measures, such as relocating to different countries, potentially in an effort to ensure personal safety. This unsettling trend raises broader questions about the overall security landscape and the impact on individuals who find themselves thrust into the spotlight. In example, a harrowing incident entails gunshots being fired near Gippy Grewal’s home, shortly after which notorious gangster Lawrence Bishnoi claimed responsibility.
The Surrey RCMP, facing a sudden surge in criminal activities within a tight-knit community, has been working tirelessly to unravel the complexities surrounding these incidents. According to the RCMP, the incidents at Payal Business Centre are being treated as isolated events and are not believed to be part of a larger trend. The investigators are diligently examining each case independently, looking for any potential connections to other crimes that might have been committed.
The Surrey RCMP assures the public that such acts of violence are relatively rare when considering the broader context of Surrey's public safety, shedding light on the reduction in overall crime rates in Surrey over the last decade. Surrey RCMP officers respond to approximately 200,000 calls for service every year and only a very small fraction of those involve a violent act in a public space, but these are usually the investigations that make the news headlines. It is important to keep these isolated acts of violence within the context of the overall public safety picture in Surrey.
Officer in Charge of Surrey RCMP Detachment, Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards shares, “We have seen a reduction in crime in Surrey over the last decade. Statistics don’t lie, crime has reduced for ten years. In 2023, our shots fired complaints were reduced 30% from 2022 and homicides were reduced in 2023 by 45% from 2022.”
However, as the investigation into the recent incidents unfolds, a troubling pattern has emerged. The Surrey RACMP discloses three validated reports of extortions in Surrey, spanning from October to November 2023. The key component of these reports is that similar fact evidence exists. These extortions are happening in a remarkably similar way, indicating that one offender or group of offenders is conducting these extortions. The same fact pattern exists throughout the region in West Vancouver, White Rock, and Abbotsford and police are satisfied the same offenders are involved. There are extortions occurring in other jurisdictions of the country as well in Edmonton, Alberta and Brampton, Ontario. Again, the fact patterns are remarkably similar.
According to the Surrey RCMP, there are rumors circulating that some people have paid the extortionists and not contacted the police. However, the police cannot act on rumors. The rumors need to be validated because invalidated rumors create fear. As such, the Surrey RCMP urges the community to share the message and encourage people to call the police, even if it is not specific to Surrey, as it may assist another police agency. The Surrey RCMP encourages businesses and individuals facing potential extortion threats to report them promptly, not engaging with the suspect and nor sending money.
In response to the rising tide of extortion cases, the Surrey RCMP has dedicated substantial resources to the investigations. Over 200 police officers, including members of the BC RCMP and other specialized units, have contributed more than 20,000 investigative hours to the cases since October. The scale of the effort underscores the gravity of the situation and the commitment of law enforcement to bring the offenders to justice. “A typical investigator works 2040 hours in a year without holidays, breaks or sickness, so that represents ten years of work on this file in a short period of twelve weeks.”, explains Assistant Commissioner Edwards.
The Surrey RCMP's collaborative approach involves working closely with other jurisdictions facing similar challenges. The complexity of the investigation demands meticulous attention, with the goal of meeting the threshold tests laid out by the courts when presenting evidence to Crown prosecutors. In light of these developments, the Surrey RCMP outlined essential measures for the community's safety. Businesses are encouraged to contact their local police detachment for guidance on security measures. Additionally, victims of extortion attempts are strongly advised not to engage with the suspects and to report the incidents to the police immediately.
As Surrey grapples with the aftermath of these criminal incidents, the community's resilience and cooperation with law enforcement become paramount. The Surrey RCMP emphasizes the importance of community involvement, urging residents to reach out and report any suspicious activities. In doing so, the community plays a vital role in maintaining public safety and fostering a sense of security in the face of adversity. In the wake of these troubling events, Surrey stands united, determined to overcome the challenges posed by the rise of local crime. The collaboration between the community and law enforcement becomes the linchpin in ensuring a swift and effective response to these incidents, ultimately restoring the peace that residents deserve.