07/01/2015 12:36 EDT | Updated 07/01/2016 05:59 EDT

Surrey extends community safety patrol program

Surrey is extending its contract with 20 commissionaires, even though the city's top cop has found them to be expensive and ineffective.

The commissionaires were hired to patrol high crime areas as part of a pilot project in April of last year following the high profile killing of hockey mom Julie Paskall.

A handful of unarmed RCMP members were also assigned to perform similar liaison work.

The RCMP members are being sent away this summer to receive full police training.

"The Surrey RCMP has decided to up-train those officers to full members with side arms and then they'll be re-deployed back into our community," said Surrey city councillor Bruce Hayne.

"They'll be away from our community for a period of weeks while they go back to depot for training, so we'll continue with the commissionaires until they're all back."

Council approved an extra $459,000 to keep the program running until the end of the year, bringing the total cost to $950,000.

Surrey RCMP called for program to be scrapped

Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy called for the program to be cancelled when he appeared before the city's police committee earlier this year.

"The Newton Town Centre remains a crime hot spot for several crime types in a concentrated area," Fordy said in his report to the committee.

"Given the financial expenditure for the CSP program this type of measure to address issues in the town center may not be cost effective."

Fordy says the commissionaires have no enforcement powers and can only observe and report. He says a police review of crime statistics shows the program has had virtually no impact.

However, the program has been extremely popular with residents and business owners.

"I know that the business community is very happy about the presence because they're in the parking lots and they're watching predators out there that are breaking into cars," said Newton Community Association president Doug Elford.

"We're happy because we see them out there talking to us and engaging with us."

Surrey still waiting for new police officers

The commissionaires will remain on duty until 100 new officers join the Surrey RCMP.

Hayne expects that will happen before the end of the year.

"I know the mayor has been making calls to Ottawa and to anyone who will listen that we want to get these officers here quickly," Hayne said.

A full transition plan will be presented to the police committee in the coming weeks.