We live in a safe city. However, as police, we recognize that there are fluctuations in crime to which we must be prepared to respond.
While reported crime is down, there has been an increase in targeted, street gang-related shootings. These incidents have taken place across the city, in various neighbourhoods, and with the common linkage being the illegal drug trade, the availability of hand guns, and the increased willingness of street gang members to use them.
I recognize the concern in the community about these shootings. There is always a threat that these targeted shootings can result in an innocent person being struck.
Preventing this activity, arresting the individuals responsible, and ensuring they are held accountable by the court system continues to be a top operational priority of the Ottawa Police.
But while the focus of the Ottawa Police is squarely on enforcement and proactive policing, we know that the solutions to this issue rest with the community at large. Those longer-term solutions include continued and increased police focus but also increased focus from community agencies who can assist in steering people away from, or out of, the gang lifestyle.
We are responding to these incidents with an increased enforcement strategy that will hold offenders accountable. We have doubled the number of investigators in our Guns and Gangs Unit and we have members in Patrol, Districts, and the Drug Unit focused on investigating, identifying, charging, and keeping close tabs on known gang associates and prolific offenders.
I am confident in the officers working to deal with this increase. They have been doing excellent work on this issue. In 2014 alone, 83 gang members and associates were arrested with hundreds of charges laid.
More than 50 crime guns were seized by Ottawa Police in 2014 and more than half of those were handguns. According to provincial statistics, about 60% of crime guns in Ontario are foreign-sourced and smuggled into Canada often originating in the United States. About 20% are domestically sourced and another 20% have no known origin.
Even after individuals are charged, our police work is often not done. In cases where individuals have been released on court conditions, our Direct Action Response Team officers conduct hundreds of compliance checks to ensure they are keeping to those conditions. In 2014, 29 street gang members or associates were found in breach of conditions and arrested.
About two years ago, we began a discussion on a city-wide gang strategy that includes enforcement but also supports and help for individuals and families vulnerable to the gang lifestyle.
Through our partnerships with Crime Prevention Ottawa, we are supporting the Ottawa Gang Strategy which is designed to help prevent or curtail future gang membership. For example, we are working with the Children’s Aid Society and community partners like the John Howard Society and You Turn to reach out to younger siblings of gang involved youth to break the cycle of violence in families.
The Youth Services Bureau is building a Trades Centre to offer training, employment possibilities and hope to youth involved with the law who are currently making money illegally but need new, realistic sources of income.
There have been hundreds of people involved in information sessions and relationship building exercises to develop a more positive understanding between the criminal justice system and immigrant communities.
We are also looking at ways to address gaps in supports such as the need for support for offenders who come out of jail with the gang lifestyle as their only perceived option.
A great amount of work still needs to be done and our officers are committed to the task of protecting community safety.