Homelessness and Crime in Surrey, BC

January 26th, 2024
Homelessness and Crime in Surrey, BC

The city of Surrey, located in the Metro Vancouver area of British Columbia, has experienced significant growth over the past few decades, including a drastic rise in population resulting from the development of major city centers like the King George Station.

Unfortunately, this growth has come with a rise in homelessness, and the homeless population faces numerous hardships, as they are often lacking necessities such as secure housing, adequate healthcare, and food.

These deficits create a situation where some individuals turn to criminal activities, often for survival. For instance, desperate to meet their most basic needs, a homeless person may shoplift for food or clothing.

Homeless Crime Rates in Surrey

According to the latest online reports, Surrey faces a substantial issue with homelessness. Numbers on the official city website suggest the city is home to approximately 1060 individuals without a home or shelter, representing a significant portion of the region's homeless population.

The rate of youth homelessness is the second highest in Metro Vancouver, with about 33 youths under 25 currently unsheltered and on the street.

Various factors contribute to homelessness in Surrey, including economic downturns, scarcity of affordable housing, and personal vulnerabilities to substance abuse and mental illness. While the local government and charity organizations strive to provide services and programs to support the homeless community in Surrey, the rate is increasing and has become a serious concern for those in the city.

The Intersection of Homelessness and Crime

There is no denying the link between homelessness and increased instances of certain types of crime. The reality is crime often becomes intertwined with daily survival for many homeless individuals in Surrey.

Most of these crimes are petty and non-violent, such as shoplifting, public disturbances, and drug-related offenses. A common example is a homeless person trespassing into an unauthorized area in search of a safe space to sleep. Their actions often arise from the necessity of survival on the streets rather than criminal intentions, as desperation can lead to poor choices when daily life depends on it.

The Homeless Are Not Always The Ones Committing The Crime

It is crucial to emphasize that while there is an overlap with certain crimes among the homeless community, they are more often than not victims, rather than perpetrators of crime.

The homeless population is often an easy target of theft and assault, and crimes against the homeless are particularly insidious because they frequently go unreported. A profound distrust in law enforcement and feelings of disconnect discourage many homeless individuals from seeking help.

Reports indicate that when homeless individuals do experience crime, it is often severe—ranging from hate-motivated attacks to sexual assault—yet these instances scarcely make it into official statistics.

Legal Representation and Its Importance

For individuals who find themselves at the intersection of homelessness and crime—whether as perpetrators or victims—the importance of legal representation cannot be overstressed.

In the BC justice system, competent legal aid can be the difference between incarceration and receiving much-needed help through rehabilitation programs or supportive services. A skilled lawyer, such as Gagan Nahal, can navigate complex legal issues surrounding such cases responsibly and represent victims' concerns effectively in court.

There is free legal advice available for those who cannot afford to hire an attorney. If someone is arrested or detained, you have the right to call the Brydges Line to speak with a lawyer, free, and it’s available 24/7. 1-800-458-5500.

Gagan Nahal is a criminal defence lawyer based in Surrey, British Columbia, although he has represented clients across Canada. He works vigorously and tirelessly defending his clients. 

If you have any questions about this article or you would like to talk to Mr. Nahal, please call him directly at (604) 527-4769.