The Problem We Face
Tonight at the Ottawa Police Services Board meeting we heard the Chief of Police and his team outline the approach Ottawa has taken to dealing with gangs, guns and to some extent the drug trade that powers and purchases them.
I want to extend thanks and support to the Chief and his team for all the work they have done. I remain confident from the discussion tonight that investigation and enforcement tools are in good hands and will continue to be well used.
The problem we face though is that in continuing to put the majority of the spotlight on the elements the police can contribute to addressing these incidents we run the risk of selling short, or worse not empowering other equally important opportunities.
Who Can Help
In the first week of February our office is bringing together our west end community residents with a variety of service providers, city departments and partners to discuss what they currently do – and what new approaches they will be taking – to address the problems of gang and youth crime. This is a direct result of a meeting held late last year where all the partners worked at length with each other to determine how each could support the other and our community best.
The residents and agencies that together deal with these issues each day are in the best position to build our approach to these events and their causes. This is when a Community becomes its own leader.
Communities As Leaders
There are those who want to contribute only when it’s newsworthy to do so. We hear from them following crime events offering unrealistic, sensational and simple solutions. This is not the time or place for them. The best prepared and equipped must be our directly affected residents and the services that support them. Those discussing events have a role to play as well. Accurately reporting addresses and community names makes a difference. It’s our responsibility to help our neighbours in areas that have been victims of crime to heal and allow them to speak for themselves – not to grab the spotlight at their expense whenever possible.
What Can Be Done
Working with the residents of our communities most affected and with the agencies that support them we will have success when we move forward at the same time with initiatives that:
- See parents supported by community partners to prevent the youth in their home from falling into gang or crime related activity;
- Expand ways to anonymously report crime, specifically allowing information from established community partners to be considered with the same weight as personal reporting;
- Use our Problem Address Framework to actively communicate among partners and then engage with residents to prevent and minimize problems;
- Ask the Ottawa Police Service to continue its emphasis and focus on guns, gangs and drug activity making the temporary doubling of resources in this area ongoing;
- Explore the use of Ottawa Community Housing Special Constable Officers as publicly discussed some time ago as a supplementary force to assist existing OCH security officers;
- Fund and operate exit strategies that will help those trying to leave the gang or crime culture to do so; and
- Work with land owners to make physical changes to neighbourhoods where community design is a contributing factor to crime.
Every building process needs more than one tool.
Only with an ‘all of the above’ approach will we succeed in meeting this challenge.