(via Ottawa Police Service)
The violence that has resulted in the murder of five young men in 2016 is a heartbreaking cause for concern for our entire community. It has left families grieving and a community searching for answers on how to prevent these crimes.
The individuals responsible for these deaths will be held accountable.
But our overall response as a community must be far broader if we are going to make progress. We must work together to stop these senseless and preventable acts that have left so many young men dead and other young men facing charges.
Every homicide is different but we are seeing a trend where young people, some of them gang members and some involved in lower level criminal activity, are turning to extreme violence to settle even minor disputes.
There is also a clear connection between the local illegal drug trade and this violence. The reality is that the demand for illegal drugs has not decreased and new, street level traffickers are entering this high risk world. Our enforcement efforts continue to target these offenders.
The solution to addressing and preventing this violence must include police, community groups, individual community members and the friends and loved ones of those involved.
That is why I am calling upon our community partners to work with us to find longer-term solutions to the escalation we are seeing. This group includes Crime Prevention Ottawa, The Coalition of Community and Health Resource Centres, the Youth Services Bureau, the John Howard Society and Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization.
We need to build on our existing City-Wide Gang Strategy that focuses on programs to dissuade people from violence and gangs, through healthy neighbourhood cohesion, early prevention, intervention, and enforcement.
Any solution must also involve those who know that their friends, sons, brothers or loved ones are armed and involved in crime. We need to hear from them so that we can keep everyone safe. They can provide us this information directly or anonymously through Crimes Stoppers.
We can draw inspiration from other efforts like CeaseFire Halifax. That program is taking a community approach to eliminating violence, in particular gun violence, by working directly with those who run a high risk of becoming or are currently involved in violent activity.
The enforcement activities of the Ottawa Police have been robust. Between 2015 and 2016 our Guns and Gangs Unit alone arrested almost 100 people charging them with more than 1,000 offences. During the same time period we have seized 85 guns, an unprecedented number.
In addition, there is important ongoing and daily work by our Patrol, Neighbourhood, Community and School Resource officers as well as other investigative units.
Our enforcement and prevention will remain strong but we have learned from other communities and successes here in Ottawa that it cannot be our only strategy if we want to succeed.
Jasmine Crescent Community
While we approach this violence from a City-wide view our Service is also focused on the Jasmine Crescent community. The murder of Nooredin Hassan last week was the third in the Jasmine community in one year. A motive has yet to be determined in that homicide.
Before him, Connor Stevenson and Issaiah Clachar were also killed in separate and unrelated incidents. Both of these homicides involved drug trafficking and were targeted. Our Major Crime investigators have solved both murders and young men are facing very serious charges.
After each of these deaths the Ottawa Police increased its involvement in that community. Proactive work by police doubled, community and school resource officers increased their activity and engagement with residents. Our officers asked for and got 24/7 access to both apartment buildings where the Stevenson and Clachar homicides occurred. We also introduced Crime Stoppers to the residents and conducted safety audits. We continue with stepped up patrols and are meeting with residents to talk about how to galvanize and strengthen the community.
We have experienced violence in our communities in the past and we have seen success in stopping it in areas like Banff-Ledbury and Vanier. That success was achieved through community engagement, a willingness from residents for change and a strengthened relationship of trust with the police.
The enforcement efforts of the Ottawa Police will continue.
Neighbourhoods that have seen violence have also seen increased police presence, we are permanently doubling the resources assigned to our Guns and Gangs unit and we continue to work with the Provincial Weapons Unit and other partners to stop illegal guns from coming into this community.
This is a safe city because our community and police work together. This is proven by our crime rates.
But we are challenged by these recent incidents of violence. Through community action, it is a challenge that we will meet together.