Dave Serblowski: Eyes on a crime-free community

Dave Serblowski talks about his life and his commitment to Crime Free Multi Housing in Chilliwack.

‘I’m only responsible for what I say; not for what you understand.’ It’s an adage that Dave Serblowski lives by. It’s emblazoned on a sign in his office and he proudly admits ownership of it. Dave is a straight-forward, tender-hearted man who is nothing if not a hard worker. His early years were far from ideal but he made the best of the cards that he was dealt and rather than dwelling on the negative, took the valuable lessons that he learned and made life a whole lot easier for his own children.

When he was just three, Dave was taken from his parents and put into foster care. At the age of eight, he was permitted to live with his grandparents, where he remained until he was 14. These were the best years of his life. “They gave me my morals and values and I loved them,” he said. When his grandmother died, Dave was so devastated that he felt like crawling into the coffin right alongside her. Not long after she passed away, he was forced to go back into foster care.

At the age of 18, Dave decided to go into the army. He did his basic training in Edmonton with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. From there, he went to Camp Borden as a member of the Royal Medical Corps. “I was in training to become a medic but I walked away from it after three years and became a farmer instead. It’s what my family did, so it was in my blood.”

He farmed in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario but by the late sixties, Dave moved to BC and after doing a variety of odd jobs, he enrolled at Malaspina College to become a heavy duty mechanic. “After graduating, I tried to get a job as a mechanic but things didn’t work out so I went back to farming,” he said. This time, he tried his hand at dairy farming and made a name for himself in the industry. He always took his job seriously and worked as hard as any man could.

Dave eventually wound up on a farm located halfway between Chilliwack and Abbotsford and he loved the job, working there for many years. Then in 1992 he injured his back and things fell apart. “I carried on and tried to work after I was injured but after a couple of months, I finally gave up. I couldn’t carry on. After that, I just didn’t feel like living anymore. I was the sole provider and I had my wife and three children to look after. We moved off the farm and went to live in Abbotsford,” he explained.

For a whole year, Dave was devastated and demoralized. “You’ve always wanted to be a social worker,” his wife said. Then the light went on and Dave had something to work towards. His spirits buoyed and he began attending UCFV and in true Dave fashion, worked as hard as he could. “I did receive a diploma in Social Services with an extended study in First Nations Culture.” With diploma in hand, he came to the realization that what he actually wanted was to move into the area of Adult Education. “This was a perfect fit and I finished the first semester but didn’t reapply for the second semester. As it stands now, I am four courses away from a degree in Adult Education,” he explained.

His mother-in-law lived in Hope and required extra help so Dave and his wife moved in to assist her. He has always been passionate about crime prevention and this led him to start their Block Watch program, in addition to sitting on the board of the Hope Crime Prevention Society and taking a lead role in the Hope Citizens on Patrol program.

After relocating back to Chilliwack, instead of returning to school, Dave began working for the Chilliwack Community Policing Society. He started off as a Block Watch coordinator but by 2006 landed the role of Crime-Free Coordinator. He was also on the BC Citizens on Patrol Advisory Committee until 2008 when he turned over that responsibility to someone else. As a certified trainer and the head of the ‘Train the Trainer’ program, he’s tasked with instructing others in the area of crime prevention including but not limited to RV Parks, Self-Storage, Lifestyles, which is a program similar to Block Watch, trailer parks, condos, town homes, hotels and motels. His extensive certifications are proudly displayed in his office and speak to the level of commitment and pride that he has in what he does. During the day, Dave can be found in the office but as the Crime-Free Multi-Housing Coordinator, he’s usually out in the evenings doing night assessments. He’s also the parking coordinator for the society and lines up volunteers to park vehicles during special events.

His job is actually not a job at all but a way of life and Dave loves every minute of it. His family, however, is his treasure. “I do love spending time with my family. When I was farming, I didn’t spend as much time with them as I wanted to. I’m proud of my kids and I taught them all to work hard,” he said. From the sounds of it, his children as just are resilient as their father. “They’ve had a go of it this last while. My younger son fell 140 ft and lived, my older son broke his neck and my daughter got hit by a train and survived. I’m grateful that they’re all still here and that’s all that matters,” he said. His wife also had open heart surgery two years ago and is doing well. Through it all, Dave continues to work hard and tries his best to go through life with a positive outlook and a sense of humour.