09/28/2014 05:56 EDT | Updated 11/29/2014 05:59 EST

Serena Vermeersch Homicide Prompts 'Take Back Surrey' Rally


A citizens rally organized on Facebook to give residents a voice in the wake of Serena Versmeersch's homicide is demanding change and greater attention to community safety.

Residents say sub-standard housing, flophouses and drug dealing are responsible for crime in their neighbourhood.

" I no longer feel safe to walk my dog through Hyland Park or most recently to even walk across the small bridge at the end of the street, said Janet Ozanich. "I have to walk past druggies or through bags of garbage that these sorts of characters have left there." 

Ozanich said she wants to see more lighting and removal of shrubbery at risky locations like the bridge walkway at the end of her street.

"Recently I saw movement in the bushes there and slowed my vehicle down to observe," she said. 

"The man came out and told me he wasn't doing anybody any harm, but he was completely stoned and came out holding a small piece of flattened tin which I presume is what they do their crack on."

Serena Vermeersch, 17, was reported missing by her mother on the morning of Sept. 16 when she didn't come home after going out the previous night.  

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Photo gallery Serena Vermeersch See Gallery

Her body was found the same night in the 14600 block of 66 Avenue near a set of railroad tracks in Surrey's East Newton neighbourhood.

Raymond Lee Caissie, 43, a high-risk sex offender, who was recently released after serving more than 20 years in prison for a violent sexual assault, has been charged with her murder.

Parole documents show authorities knew Caissie was likely to re-offend.

Many residents at the rally said the law needs to change so that high-risk offenders aren't released back into the community or aren't able to expose it to that kind of danger.