11/27/2013 11:01 EST | Updated 01/27/2014 05:59 EST

Surrey homicide spikes may be a coincidence, says expert

A spike in homicides every four years in Surrey, B.C., may just be a coincidence, according to an SFU criminologist appointed to a special task force.

So far 23 people have been killed in homicides this year in the Metro Vancouver city, the highest number recorded in one year.

The task force, which is made up of police, senior city staff, a criminologist and school leaders, met for the first time yesterday to map out its plans.

One trend the task force will look at is the apparent spike in the murder rate every four years since 2005 in Surrey.

But SFU professor Irwin Cohen says the four-year spikes are likely not significant.

"It sort of looks like a pattern to our eyes in the sense that it seems to happen every four years," he says.

"But I think if you start looking at the nature of the types of homicides you've had, in terms of how many are organized crime-related versus non-organized crime-related, my sense is that in general terms, the proportion remains the same every year."

Mayor links drugs to crimes

Mayor Dianne Watts, who chaired the first meeting, noted illegal drugs have been linked to many of the homicides.             

"We have to remember that a lot of these drugs dealers, their target audience are youth, and a third of our population is under the age of 19," said Watts.

Cohen says some of the people involved in such crimes in Surrey don't necessarily live there, so the RCMP's B.C. headquarters needs to look across the Lower Mainland for answers.

"In many ways, the kinds of people that are involved in the criminality in Surrey don't necessarily live in Surrey," says Cohen.

"So that's where I think E-Division plays a very important role, is that we've got people here who are looking at it a provincial-wide and even a national level."