Realistic Approach to Gangs Needed in Ottawa
According to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson exit strategies are one of the better ideas to dealing with gangbangers. He also dismisses the need to hire more officers. Rather, the mayor supports officers being pulled from other needed positions within the city and reassigned to the gangs and guns unit of the Ottawa Police force.
As is the norm for this mayor, ignoring any real solutions to a problem will hurt this city's reputation and in the case of gangs, will in the end, result in the injury or death of non-gang members. Will it take an innocent person, a child perhaps, being killed before the mayor will give the growing problem more than just lip service?
In the short term we need to stop the gun violence. This is not as hard as the public has been led to believe. I'm not saying it will be a cake walk either. We need to get some city owned space that will serve as neutral territory were gangs can meet with a non-police moderator to work out any differences that would normally be settled with guns. As in the days of old with the mafia, a commission has been proven to work with street gangs in many US cities. It does not get rid of gangs in the immediate, but it will go a long way in curving the violence which will help ensure innocent people are not caught up in the deadly disputes that we see erupting over territory and other gang business.
Next, if we don't have insiders already, police need to get one of their own in one or more of the gangs. Intel is probably the most important thing police can use to curve or even end gang activities within the city. Working with gangs in some cases will see a controlled and/or manageable gang activity in Ottawa. We are NEVER going to get rid of gangs entirely. Anyone who thinks we can, whether they are the mayor or the police chief, should get their heads out of the sand. We need to be realistic with what our end goal is when it comes to gang crime in our city.
The city needs to put pressure on the justice system to ensure stiffer penalties for known gangbangers. And although the bleeding hearts will not think it’s a good idea, I think we should build more prisons. Like it or not, the fact is more prison space allows for more room and thus stiffer penalties. It also creates jobs which we desperately need in this province and in our city. Proceeds from crimes that are recovered by police would go towards a jail fund to ease the taxpayer burden when it comes to running such facilities. Privately run prisons with government over sight are not a dirty idea. In fact, allowing private enterprise to build and run jails on their own dime makes good economic sense and is a win for all involved. No tax money is being spent and the criminals stay where they belong, behind bars.
Mayor Jim Watson needs to take the handcuffs off of the local police force and give them the money to hire more officers. Let’s bring in people with real experience in the field of gangs and guns instead of moving officers into the job that may have needed expertise in the area they are already working. If Watson spent half as much time chasing down money for our police force as he does for his electric choo-choo train he wants built in the city, the force would be in great shape as far as the needed manpower to tackle the growing gang problem in Ottawa.
I make these suggestions based on my own experience growing up in a dangerous neighbourhood. Although gang violence and gang activity in general is on the rise in Ottawa, it still does not compare to the ghetto I grew up in Niagara Falls (located on Waters Ave and Warden Ave). During the 70s and early 80s police would not even think of coming in there after dark unless they numbered six or more no matter how minor the call might be. People were shot, stabbed or beat with a baseball bat on a regular basis. It was the residents of that 73 unit townhouse complex that took the community back. They formed a committee, threaten to sue the city if the place wasn't cleaned up, maintained regularly and got more lighting. They also demanded and were granted regular walking police patrols. Because of the police numbers used in these patrols a large and immediate decrease in criminal activity from within the housing complex was seen. The patrols were eventually minimized, but the result stayed the same, a noticeable absence in crime and violence. Although this did not completely wipe out the drugs or gangs, it did go a long way to minimizing it to the point that this same set of townhouses is considered one of the better places to live within public housing in Niagara Falls. If we don’t start using real solutions, Ottawa will see more and more housing complexes ending up in a state that neither residents, nor police will feel comfortable entering.
Poor living conditions, lack of proper lighting and not enough police to patrol all the hot spots at once are all problems that need to be addressed by the city. The problem for this mayor in my opinion is that funding the needed revitalization of public housing takes away funds from his pet projects. Watson knows that poor people don’t vote, so he would rather spend the money in areas that produce results for those that do vote.
Working within the gang structure in the short term, more police, undercover work, stiffer penalties and citizen co-operation are things that can be done NOW that will produce immediate results in curving gang violence in our city. We cannot effect change without dealing directly with the gangs themselves and that I feel has been the biggest problem to date. You cannot fix the problem by going at the gangs head on. That has not worked with organized crime in the past and it will not work with the street gangs of today. The gangs of today are not afraid of the light prison sentences handed out in Ontario, nor do they fear the police. In the old days, gangs, organized crime families and police all had a healthy respect for each other. They didn’t like each other, but there was respect. The kids now a days in organized crime have no respect for anyone or any institution. Until they learn or are taught respect, the problem will continue. The only way they will learn respect is if we give them a little. That is how the gang structure works, on a ‘I will give you respect if I get it in return’ type system. As stupid as they may sound to some, that is the glue that holds gangs together and the basis for their general hierarchy. The guy/girl who garners the most respect among the gang members is generally made the leader.
It is time the mayor stop talking about things he wants to do, and take a leadership role and actually implement things that will get the desired effect sooner rather than later. Throwing it all on the shoulders of the police is not the solution. Nor is hoping parents will voluntarily turn their children in if and when they realize the kid is part of a gang. It is generally the lack of supervision or any real discipline at home that has aided the child or even pushed the child into the gangs to begin with. A feeling of being respected, a sense of belonging and the lure of easy money look like great things to be part of when your home life lacks structure.