Housing communities using community engagement to reduce crime

Concerns have been raised about the safety of tenants at community housing complexes after two daylight shootings took place in housing neighbourhoods at opposite ends of the city.

The shootings are two of four recent cases involving young men shot in the legs; one arrest has been made in the shooting in a south end community housing complex.

Police have confirmed that none of the cases are linked. Acting Staff Sgt. Ken Bryden said the fact all four victims were shot in the legs is a coincidence.

The shooting on Ritchie Street is being investigated as a personal robbery but, because it involves a firearm, Bryden's unit is still taking the lead, liaising with the Robbery Unit.

The fear, of course, is that innocent bystanders may be caught in the crossfire of crime that is coming into the neighbourhoods but is not being generated there.

"It's not people in the neighbourhood that are conducting the bad behaviour, it's bad behaviour outside that thought this would be a good place to land in," said Mark Taylor, councillor for Bay Ward in which Monday's shooting took place and head of Ottawa's Community and Protective Services Committee.

While crime was once common in Ritchie Street, and many other community housing complexes, things are starting to change.

Ottawa Police said violent activity in the area has been virtually non-existent for almost a year, which is something Taylor said is a good sign.

"It's meaning that less and less this neighbourhood, and neighbourhoods like it, are on the radar for people to say 'oh, those are places where we can go and do bad things,'" he said.

That's due, in part, to increased police and City presence, but also to the efforts of the communities themselves to get to know one another and take ownership for where they live.

And for the first time in this neighbourhood people weren't afraid to talk to police because they're gaining a better sense of community.

"There's more, OCH (Ottawa Community Housing) presence, Public Health Presence, there's more things going on in the neighbourhood," said Taylor, who said the more you animate a community the safer it becomes and Ritchie Street is serving as an example of how change can come from the ground up.

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