Group attempts to clean up Herongate

There's a bid to revitalize the troubled Herongate neighbourhood in the city's south end.

The area has seen a rash of crime in recent months, including an incident a week ago on Cedarwood Drive that saw a man shot in the face.

Mavis Finnamore, with social justice group Ottawa ACORN has lived in Herongate for years and remembers a time when residents weren't afraid to let their kids play outside, when gang members weren't frequenting the parks and when drug deals weren't made in dark corners.

She told CFRA residents know it wouldn't be difficult to change the neighbourhood for the better.

"They want to see some improvement definitely in the looks of their place because that, they believe will also signify that people care. And if you care, it's harder for criminal elements to come in," she said.

Finnamore said part of the problem in the Herongate area could be attributed to long-term neglect by past landlords.

"When an area sort of doesn't maintain itself and lets things get worn down or not repaired, there is something called what - the broken light bulb theory, where it starts to attract criminal elements," she said. "I think that's sort of what happened to our area, which was a very well-maintained, I would call it a middle class enclave of garden homes, town homes."

Minto originally owned some of the buildings, but Finnamore said there was a marked decline in the community once they sold off the property.

ACORN has held multiple protests over living conditions for tenants in the area, many of whom cannot afford to fix up their units on their own.

She said the current landlords, Timbercreek have done some maintenance work on the homes, but more still needs to be done.

Timber Creek manages a number of properties on Baycrest, Cedarwood, Heron, Sandalwood and Walkley.

"We're talking to the management of Timbercreek and saying 'look, this needs to be fixed, this needs to be fixed, please have, you know, more security driving around,'" she said. "We do know that they do have a security force now looking around and it has brought some of [the crime] down."

"We're hoping to get Timbercreek on side with this too, in terms of doing simple things like they did here in our basement: finally fixing our underground garage doors, which were always compromised and open and broken or whatever," Finnamore added. "We've finally got most of that taken care of, so we don't have to worry about [criminals] coming in and using our underground garage area as a place to make drug deals."

Finnamore is among a group of residents passing out flyers and contacting landlords asking them to spruce up their properties.

She said she would also like to see landlords set certain conditions before renting out their apartments to just anyone and the community policing centre closed earlier this year re-opened.

Ottawa Police say they are still weighing the future of all of the community policing centres in the city, although the Herongate one was closed because of health and safety issues.

Finnamore knows cleaning up Herongate is a challenge, but she said if everyone works together they can make a difference.

"We have to work together as a community," she said. "I'm not trying to be nasty to a landlord and I don't think he's trying to be nasty to me, but we do have to get these things done."

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