NEWS

Serena Vermeersch's murder highlights lack of community, says Surrey mom

09/26/2014 03:46 EDT | Updated 11/26/2014 05:59 EST
A Surrey mom whose children went to school with Serena Vermeersch says neighbours need to do more to keep each other safe and prevent crime as the community undergoes rapid changes.

"She was a lovely girl. It's so tragic," said Kristina Notting. "I hope that her legacy is that we become more caring and vigilant of each other."

Vermeersch, 17, was found dead last week near railroad tracks in Surrey's East Newton neighbourhood, along a walking path shortcut she would take to get home from a bus stop.

Almost a week later, 43-year-old Raymond Lee Caissie was charged with second-degree murder in connection with Vermeersch's death.

While the outcome of the case against Caissie is likely to be known months or years from now, the possibility that he committed the act has many, Notting included, wondering what is happening to their city.

'We need to rely on each other'

Notting, who spoke with Rick Cluff in an interview on CBC's The Early Edition Friday morning, said she remembers the public warning the RCMP released last year about Caissie.

Caissie, a high-risk offender who was released after serving a sentence for attacking an Abbotsford woman, had also been convicted before that of attacking and attempting to kidnap an Ontario woman.

- MORE | 1989 arresting officer says he knew Caissie would re-offend

"I remember looking at my husband and saying, 'What are these people thinking?'" Notting said. "I remember reading it [the notification] and just feeling afraid."

Notting says the murders of Vermeersch and Julie Paskall, who was killed by a stranger in the parking lot of the Newton Arena last December, show that people in her community can't rely on the police or the judicial system to keep them safe.

Instead, she says, "We need to rely on each other."

"We really need to remember that primarily we all have to to look out for each other and each other's children and bring back that sense of community and togetherness," she said.

Surrey grows, community shrinks

Notting feels that Surrey's rapid growth has brought increased crime and a loss of sense of community.

"Surrey has gotten so big. All of our communities have gotten so big," she said.

Notting has had things stolen right out of her garage, and says increased traffic means there aren't kids playing in the streets anymore. 

"Sometimes the only time people spend in their community is the space between the door of their car and the door of their house," she said. "They're not out there. We need to be out there in our community, walking around."

On Sunday, Surrey residents are holding an anti-crime rally and Notting said it will be a chance for many people feeling fear and outrage to channel their emotions and take back the streets.

She hopes bringing people out will encourage them to get to know their neighbours and foster a sense of community.

Notting wants to see more people walking, biking or even playing hockey again in neighbourhood streets.

"That's how you build communities, from the streets up."

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