– SkyTrain police attended 36,424 incidents in 2008

The Province

transit.police

Crime has drastically plunged at Metro Vancouver’s “scariest” SkyTrain station, according to the transit police 2008 annual report, released Thursday.

Surrey Central Station, often perceived to be the most crime-riddled transit hub, saw a 46-per-cent drop in incidents from 2007 to 2008.

“When I used to come down here, I saw violent stuff often,” Jessica Wells, 18, told The Province Thursday as she exited the station.

“When I pass by now, I don’t see fights any more, but there are still a lot of junkies.

“I don’t think the junkies will ever leave.”

Overall, reported crime within 100 metres of a SkyTrain station was down nearly four per cent last year, compared with 2007. The number of crimes at stations plunged by more than 31 per cent.

The four stations making up the Surrey corridor accounted for 18 per cent of the 36,424 incidents transit police attended last year.

Across the transit system, property crimes dropped 11 per cent, personal crimes fell two per cent and provincial-statute violations were down 23 per cent.

The overall crime decline is being credited to transit Police Chief Ward Clapham’s 44-point safety plan, which has increased police presence, changed SkyTrain’s crime-fighting focus and included upgrades to the closed-circuit TV system.

But there have also been increases in incidents, with a 72-per-cent rise in drug-related crimes and a 51-per-cent increase in federal-statute violations.

The increase is due to a crackdown on drugs, including a 13-day plain-clothes investigation that “broke the back” of Surrey Central’s dealings.

“The plainclothes drug [unit] had a really big effect on the whole crime statistics of the area because of all the connected crimes to drug dealing,” transit police spokesman Tom Seaman said.

“The work that they did there really drove a lot of stuff out of the area.”

The crackdown led to a total of 47 drug-related charges, in addition to arrests on outstanding warrants, weapons offenses and stolen property.

As a reporter spoke to commuters during Thursday’s afternoon rush hour, a man on a bicycle rode up to a man waiting near the bus loop, to score drugs.

It’s a problem that’s waning but won’t disappear overnight, Seaman said.

But not everybody agrees.

“Personally speaking, I haven’t seen a difference,” Charles Constable, 53, said as he headed back to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“With September rolling around, it’s a lot busier again and the drug abuse is just horrendous.”

crime.statsFull info on crime stats here

Commuter Brenda McKenzie, 39, said part of the issue is the station’s proximity to the Surrey pretrial centre.

“The big problem is down in the bus loop,” she said. “They come out of the pretrial and you can tell which ones just came out of jail.”

McKenzie’s friend, 44-year-old Richard Scott, said police should spend more time monitoring who boards illegally, to stop criminals from using the transit system for their own profit.

But Atif Khan, 19, thinks whatever the police are doing is working.

“I’ve seen the cops patrolling a lot more — every two hours — and the transit police are working with them.

“It’s made a huge difference, a huge impact . . . I feel much safer.”

n Surrey Central Station has also been the home of violent crimes, including the 2005 beating death of Matthew Martins, 16.

Katherine Quinn and Robert Forslund were found guilty of the second-degree murder of Martins in 2007. Quinn has since won a retrial.

kmercer@theprovince.com

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