I spoke to multiple media outlets after the Lilas Private shooting in 2015 about the best way our neighbourhood could move forward.
Ottawa Police have laid charges against two men after the shooting on Lilas Private last Tuesday in Overbrook. Metro reported my statement that anti-gang initiatives need to continue in order to suppress violent crime in the neighbourhood.
“While there have been successes in terms of arrests, charges and taking guns off the street by the police, more needs to be done on a regular, ongoing basis.”
The community believes that Ottawa police need to conduct more patrols in the neighbourhood and to adopt an exit strategy for gang members.
In the wake of the recent shooting in Overbrook, I told CBC Television: "We understand this summer that the police are understaffed, that's irresponsible. We understand that the anti-gang initiative has been suspended, that's unreasonable."
The Ottawa Sun also reprinted statements to that effect.
I also told Radio Canada: "Neighbours are very frustrated and they want action now, so that we can reduce the amount of violence, especially gang-related violence that is in the neighbourhood."
I said to both Ottawa Community News and News 1310 that it is not our expectation that the City act should act as region's largest slumlord.
While incidents like the shooting at Lilas Private add to the reputation of our community being riddled with crime, I told the Ottawa Citizen that the reality is that our neighbourhood, and the Overbrook Community Association, has been working hard over the past year to address such incidents of violent crime.
In the wake of shootings that occurred late last year in Overbrook, the community association convened a meeting in February with a number of partners, including the Ottawa Police Service, the City's anti-crime agency, Crime Prevention Ottawa, and the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre, along with Ward 13 Councillor Tobi Nussbaum.
At that meeting, Central District Acting Inspector Mike Laviolette noted that despite a number of targeted shootings, which he described as “aberrations”, overall crime is down in Overbrook. He noted that due to community vigilance through programs such as Neighbourhood Watch, crime has actually been declining in Overbrook.
Because our community association had been instrumental in reinvigorating Neighbourhood Watch initiatives over the past two years, Overbrook saw a 17 percent reduction in its number of police calls from 2013 to 2014. During that time, residential break and enters in the area decreased by 31 percent, and thefts from vehicles went down 50 percent, according police statistics.
The community also learned that CPO is working to apply some of its new, proposed anti-crime initiatives in Overbrook. Initiatives that the agency are developing include developing a post-incident neighbourhood support protocol. The protocol, according to CPO Business Consultant Sharmaarke Abdullahi, will establish a clear procedure concerning how community resources can be deployed to help people affected by crime.
We were also pleased to have received commitments to improve public safety from Councillor Nussbaum. The Councillor noted that he was personally committed to a youth job fair, along with the development of a gang exit strategy.
Additionally, Yacouba Traoré, the Director of the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre, announced a new commitment to develop a youth strategy for the neighbourhood. Previous crime reports noted that “youth not attending school” has been a significant predictor of overall criminal activity in Overbrook. Statistics show that 65 percent of all crime in Ward 13 are committed by youth, which is higher than the city average.
Working in conjunction partners including the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario, Ottawa Community Housing and the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, the community is exploring new programming for at-youth risk, including the extension of the Students Will All Graduate (SWAG) program to our area.
SWAG provides students with access to mentors, academic support from teachers, peer support and recreation programs. It has been described as a “homework club on steroids” that ensures youth in middle school obtain enough class credits to advance to high school. Research has determined that if enough credits are obtained early, especially if students successfully finish grades 9 and 10, then the chance of them graduating increases significantly. We were happy that community leaders such as OCDSB Zone 6 Trustee Chris Ellis and Geordie Walker, Principal of Rideau High School, were present at the Centre’s youth strategy session and were generally receptive about examining the introduction of such a program to our community.
The community association is also receptive of the current homework club that has been established at our local community centre by Dr. Monjur Chowdhury, that is designed to improve the Math and English skills of children from low-income families. We are also very supportive of the Twice Upon a Time initiative that is bringing free books to kids at the same community centre every Saturday.
In terms of more efforts underway to engage youth, the RRCRC recently facilitating a series of six, two-hour workshops this April and May to teach girls aged 12 to 14 how to start their very own business, through mentorship programming led by a local entrepreneur.
Our association was additionally pleased to learn about the Sens Foundation’s interest in putting one of its next Recreational Investments in Neighbourhood for Kids (RINK) projects in Overbrook Park. The project, a state-of-the-art outdoor rink, promotes physical activity, recreation and social development, along with getting youth more active and engaged. Since greater youth engagement is our goal, your Association is gratified that the Sens Foundation has begun fundraising efforts.
With all of this activity taking place, Overbrook is convinced that progress is being made concerning both crime mitigation and youth engagement. However, in the wake of last week’s shooting, the community association is doubly committed to working to improve incident response and tenant engagement with all of our partners.