Langley’s alarming trend: gun violence
On July 25, many awoke to a provincial alert of multiple shootings in the Langleys. Later, the public would learn it was a lone shooter targeting homeless people. Two were killed. The motive remains unclear.
Shootings have become an increasing problem in the city and township—some even taking place in high-traffic, public spaces, like the shooting at the shopping mall.
Mid-afternoon on May 3, 2021, shots were fired in a parking lot outside a children’s toy store at Langley’s Willowbrook Shopping Centre—sending a man to hospital.
That shooting would later become a 2021 statistic—one of 11 shootings related to organized crime or the drug trade in the two municipalities. With seven homicides last year, the Langleys recorded its highest number of killings since at least 1998.
The alarming trend continued in 2022, a presentation to Township council earlier this year showed.
By April, there were already another eight shootings on record, council was told. Some were just as brazen as those recorded the year prior—including a shooting near an elementary school. That incident occurred a mere 30 minutes before the street near Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary would have been flooded with kids for after-school pickup. Fortunately, no one was injured in the shooting. It was later determined to have been attributed to a “private residence that was attracting problems” and the residents were later evicted, according to Langley’s top cop, Supt. Adrian Marsden. No one has been charged in connection to the incident. RCMP told The Current the victim has been unco-operative with police and they lack evidence to move the investigation forward.
Marsden spoke to The Current earlier this year ahead of his one-year anniversary in his role as superintendent. It was his first media interview during his 29-year policing career.
He suggested the shootings were “related to mostly low level drug-dealing and conflicts between different groups.”
The Langley detachment has 211 regular members, but when incidents like a shooting happen they get help from the province’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and Surrey’s dedicated gang task force, a task force Langley doesn’t have.
“We went out for about a month, just trying to make our presence known, try to be visible, be out there at busy times when we thought that any gang members or people involved in this sort of activity would be around,” Marsden said.
And he believes Langley can learn from neighbouring communities.
Surrey, for example, works in partnership with the Fraser Health Authority to operate a program called Car 67, in which a uniformed officer and a clinical nurse work together to respond to mental health calls. It’s a program Marsden would like to see in the Langleys.
“We’re actually ready to start tomorrow,” he said. “We would have the car, I would have the people, I would start as soon as I could.”
But it isn’t a one-sided coalition, Marsden admits. For the program to succeed, it would require resources from Fraser Health.
Until such a partnership is established the RCMP will continue to field those calls alone.
“I don’t really see that there’s any alternative, I just don’t know who else would be attending these calls, or who else is going to take that role,” Marsden said. “So I think we are, whether we want it or not, the police are the de facto people dealing with these issues.”
And those aren’t the only issues.
Violent crime, property crime, and residential break and enters in the Langleys all experienced an increase in 2021 from the year prior, council also heard.
Violent crime increased by 7% in 2021. In particular, assaults and robbery were each up by 16%, while sex offences spiked by a startling 33%.
Crime has fluctuated in the Langleys over the last five years, according to Statistics Canada’s crime severity indices. But in general, violent crime has been on an upswing in both the township and the city.
The detachment watches for trends, Marsden said.
“There’s also the longer-term trends where we really have to change things up. So that’s when we’re making more significant changes, like adding new units or shutting other units down.”
And those shifts will continue to happen as the detachment plans for Langley’s future growth, Marsden said.
“I think Langley is changing and obviously, it’s becoming much more populated, much more urbanized. We have the SkyTrain coming, lots and lots of big changes… And I think we’d be naïve not to think that we shouldn’t be planning for those things ahead.”