One of the top issues that concern residences in the City of Langley is crime. People want the City to tackling crime, but how to tackle crime is nebulous to many people. When people talk about crime, especially at the local level, I believe they are actually talking about feeling safety in their community. How can the City of Langley help people feel safe?
There are two broad areas that must be addressed to help people feel safe. One is the public realm.
Rundown buildings, vacant buildings, empty lots, tagging, and poorly maintained or broken infrastructure (like street lights, sidewalks, roads, and benches) make people feel unsafe. The first thing that the City must do is make sure that the public realm is in a state of good repair. Sometimes this means investing more resources to address years of deferred maintenance, or vandalism. In the end, this will pay off. This is how New York City addressed the perception of crime, and transformed seedy places like Time Square into a major tourist destination.
When it comes to rundown buildings, vacant buildings, and empty lots, the City of Langley needs to work with land owners, local businesses, and the development community to find ways to attract new, and retain current, businesses. It must also work to support well-maintained commercial and residential buildings while also encouraging redevelopment. The City of Surrey, through the Surrey City Development Corporation, actually co-develops property with the private sector; this is something that I would certainly investigate doing in the City.
The second thing that makes people feel safe is when they are around other people. Of course this comes with a caveat; if people are around others that look like they are up to no good, then people feel unsafe.
It is no surprise than that people feel safe in Downtown Langley during the day, but not so much in the evening. One of the first things that the City should do is work with the RCMP to ensure that there are police “walking the beat” in places like Downtown Langley in the evening. This police presence will help discourage activities that make people feel unsafe.
The solution though is to give people a legitimate reason to be in Downtown Langley in the evening. In the short-term, the City could look at partnering with the local business improvement association to support evening events. With the new Timms Community Centre that is being built, the City will also have the opportunity to extend the reach of the community centre into the street.
The real solution is to build a walkable downtown core. This means building more housing in the downtown core that supports local business. It also means redeveloping parking lots into mixed-use residential buildings with ground-level retail. Like I said earlier, the City must also invest in its public infrastructure.
I believe that having a vibrant downtown core, and well-maintained public infrastructure, will make people feel safe in the City of Langley.