Jasmine Crescent violence won't be easy to fix
'There is no one program, there's no one intervention, which will end this problem': Crime Prevention Ottawa
Two years ago, Christine Watson thought moving onto Jasmine Crescent was a good idea. She'd heard it was quiet.
But now that three young men have been killed on her street in less than a year, she's hoping to get her 18-year-old son out of harm's way as soon as she can.
"He's relatively the same age as the kids who are here who are being killed. And I just keep thinking, I raised him really well and something can happen to him for no reason at all. I'm afraid to even send him to the store," she told CBC News on Monday night.
I've just had enough. What if something happens? He could be in the wrong place at the wrong time.- Christine Watson, Jasmine Crescent resident
Her lease expires this summer, but she's thinking she can't wait.
"Now I just want to get out so badly. ... I'm seriously considering — and I don't care if they know that — of leaving before then because I just want to get out of here.
"I've just had enough. What if something happens? He could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. My son is so good and so well behaved but if he looks at somebody the wrong way? ... I'm really regretting actually moving here. I want to keep him safe. We're not used to this."
In neighbourhoods like Watson's — and there are a few even in relatively sleepy Ottawa — there have never been quick fixes to reduce crime and police have always been just one part of the puzzle.
Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau re-stated these facts in a public letter Monday, and the executive director of Crime Prevention Ottawa said her group is "very excited" about the conversation.
"What he's saying is absolutely rooted in the evidence. Violence problems in our community cannot be solved by the police alone. All the scientific evidence, the criminology research, indicates that you need to be looking at root causes ... and using complex solutions to address complex problems," she said.
"There is no one program, there's no one intervention, which will end this problem. The gang exit program is an extremely important intervention to assist active gang members in changing their life, but there are many other things that need to happen at the same time."
Halifax program sparks ideas
Among the agencies Bordeleau mentioned in his public letter was CeaseFire Halifax, a non-profit that's been running for two years with funding from the National Crime Prevention Centre and the Nova Scotia Department of Justice.
It focuses its efforts on three neighbourhoods, and senior outreach worker Carlos Beals told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Tuesday that crime has gone down in those neighbourhoods each year.
The first CeaseFire program was launched in Chicago in 2000 and it's method is to essentially treat crime like an infectious disease.
"We identify and detect who's at risk, we treat the people who are most vulnerable, we attempt to change the community norms," Beals said.
To do that, the group employs people who are from the target neighbourhoods to identify and talk to people who are at risk of committing or are already immersed in crime. They use social media to find out if conflicts are brewing and try to mediate them, but not with the help of police. To be effective, they can't work with officers.
Watson said that whatever happens to reduce crime on Jasmine Crescent, it needs to happen soon.
"I really think that by the time they get these community organizations together to have safer neighbourhoods, we're going to lose a lot more children by then. I think something needs to be done and it needs to be done quickly," Watson said.
"And what, in maybe nine, 10 months from now we might have some sort of idea what this community outreach will look like? By then we'll probably have lost a lot more young men."
With files from Hillary Johnstone, Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco and CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning