Crime in Michele Heights
Police Inspector Hartley (Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 17/14) is bang-on when he says "Solving youth gang crime a community responsibility, not just a police matter", in reference to the spate of shootings in the Michele Heights area in Ottawa's west end. While the installation of surveillance cameras and increased police patrols - initiatives coming out of a stakeholder agency meeting recently held by Bay Ward Councillor Mark Taylor - will act as a deterrent, these actions alone will not solve the crime issues in this (or any other) community.
Part of a community strategy to combat youth gang crime must involve better co-ordination and focus from the City's agencies: not only Ottawa Police but also Ottawa Community Housing, Ottawa Public Health, the City's Social Services and Recreation & Culture Departments, Crime Prevention Ottawa, and partner agencies like Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre, Youth Services Bureau and the Boys & Girls Club. The City does have the Community Development Strategy model, which is intended to co-ordinate activities in high-risk areas, but this has become top-heavy and ineffective in achieving its objectives. It needs to be re-tooled and given measurable objectives, like reducing youth unemployment in these high-risk neighbourhoods.
We are told, however, that the activities in Michele Heights are part of a drug war. This opens the door to a larger conversation about drug use in our society, as certainly the consumers of these drugs do not all live in these high-risk communities. If some of these drugs were treated as controlled substances, as marijuana is in some jurisdictions, then the scope for criminal activity becomes reduced.
With a federal election looming next year, this is as good a time as any to start thinking and talking about this. Crime, as the Inspector says, is a community responsibility, not someone else's.