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See a car on fire? It may be linked to the gang war, Coquitlam RCMP say at city townhall

Public safety, booze in parks and trees were the topics that cropped up at last Thursday's townhall meeting at Coquitlam city hall.

The spate of shootings in Coquitlam — including the targeted murder of a 20-year-old man at Town Centre Park last month — was top of mind for city council last Thursday as it launched its annual townhall.

At the start of the virtual meeting, Mayor Richard Stewart directed Insp. Andrew Martin, acting superintendent of the Coquitlam/Port Coquitlam RCMP detachment, to read a prepared statement to address the uptick in violent crime in Coquitlam that may be linked to the Lower Mainland drug and gang war.

Martin reassured the community that the “unusual” and “alarming” rash of gun offences comes after a decade of low crime rates in the city, and police have upped their beat patrols — by vehicle, foot, bike and ATV — to find the killer of Bailey McKinney, who was shot dead on the basketball courts on April 19.

Mounties are also asking for the public’s help to report suspicious activities especially involving vehicles on fire as they may be connected to a shooting in the Lower Mainland, which has recently been a trend.

“Please, don’t be afraid to call us,” said Martin, who also asked for reports of vehicles with gas cans inside.

Mayor Richard Stewart, who answered the majority of the questions at the townhall, also spoke about public safety and twice noted that city council has “absolute confidence” with the detachment it partially funds.

“We are making sure we are one of the safest communities,” the mayor said, defending city council’s past budgeting for hiring for additional police officers. “The resources that they need are being provided…. We take our hat off to the Coquitlam RCMP who are working around the clock to make this work,” Stewart said.

BOOZE IN PARKS, THE BUDGET, TREE LOSS

The townhall brought a mix of questions from residents including a few who previously ran for elected office: Rob Bottos inquired about the lack of civic policy around booze in parks, which he described as “archaic and out of the times,” while Ben Craig touched on budgetary expenses, saying there’s a “perceived disconnect” between city hall and taxpayers; and former candidate Paul Landry also pressed for less tree chopping.

Stewart cited an aerial photo of south Coquitlam, in 1963, showing fewer trees than today, as more trees were planted in residential areas converted from farmland. The mayor also pointed to a 1950s aerial image of the Ranch Park neighbourhood where “there’s easily three times more tree canopy [now] than then,” he said. 

Still, “We will lose trees in the course of development partly because we desperately need more housing.”

THREE C'S: CRUNCH, CYCLING, CHILDCARE

Besides the environment, outdoor recreation cropped up at the townhall, of which Stewart made a point of mentioning who attended in chambers (Coun. Brent Asmundson and himself) and who beamed in via Zoom (councillors Craig Hodge, Steve Kim, Trish Mandewo, Dennis Marsden, Teri Towner and Bonita Zarrillo).

A largely silent council heard about the Coquitlam Crunch expansion — due to start construction later this year — to link the original trail to Dewdney Trunk Road and up to Mariner Way, to connect with Mundy Park. 

Lanny Englund, acting general manager of parks, recreation, culture and facilities, spoke of the two rounds of public consultation, each of which generated more than 1,500 responses, and said the southern alignment and amenities have yet to be finalized; a report is due before city council before the summer break, he said.

And new cycling routes and infrastructure for Guildford Way and United Boulevard were also raised.

City staff say they’re working on an environmental sustainability plan as well as a childcare strategy that will create more daycare spaces. Stewart lamented the service download responsibility from the provincial government, saying “it’s never something that cities have done. It’s been added to the expectations.”

Stewart said that Coquitlam city staff are working with SD43 and developers to create more spots, through incentives, because “we know that childcare is one of the determining factors of the success of a family.”

Currently, the city has 10 projects in the application stage that, if OK’d, would create more than 500 spaces.