Shootings in Ottawa have dropped dramatically so far this year compared to 2012.

The city logged 32 shootings last year, nearly half of them related to gang activity.

But this year, from January 1 to the end of April, there have been two shootings in Ottawa, compared to 11 from the same time period in 2012.


Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Mark Patterson, who heads the guns and gangs unit, says there has been a "marked decrease" in shootings so far this year compared to the same time frame in 2012. (CBC)

Guns and gangs unit Staff Sgt. Mark Patterson attributes the decline to more funding, access to other police force resources and more search warrants, among other things, after police Chief Charles Bordeleau named guns and gangs activity one of his three policing priorities in late 2011.

Probing more into the local drug trade has also helped, Patterson said.

"Guns and drugs are like cookies and milk for our gang members, so we have been doing more investigations in relation to the drugs, which is providing us evidence in the street gang members, which is leading us to some of the guns," Patterson said.

"We're getting the guns off the street."

Better rapport with community

The unit also has a better rapport with the community, Patterson said, which is leading to more co-operation with active investigations. He also said other police forces in Ontario are working on preventing guns from being smuggled into Canada from the U.S., which means fewer guns on the street.

But with warm weather coming up, Patterson said the decline in shootings might not hold out.

"In saying that … with our summer months approaching and the nicer weather, we may see an increase," Patterson said. "Hopefully it doesn't happen, but I think the proactive measures we've taken in place and the fact that the community is on board with us and giving us a hand in some of these investigations, has kind of reduced the numbers, so far."

2012 was also a big year for Ottawa's partner assault unit, which reported an increase in calls that year according to the force's annual report.

Partner assault unit re-evaluating its practices

Violence against women is another of Bordeleau's top three priorities, and partner assault Staff Sgt. Isobel Granger said that forced the unit to rethink its best practices.

"It really put us in a position where we had to re-evaluate … how we do business, and are we responding in the best possible way," Granger said. "And I know the chief is really, really passionate about it."

More emphasis on leadership, changing how the unit works with community partners and focusing on how it responds to calls internally have all been looked at, Granger said. The team of 24 has to perform efficiently because of the large volume of calls it gets.

"On any given day we come in and there's maybe three, four, five, maybe more people in the cellblock, plus … the investigations that come in just by people reporting, so it's always steady," Granger said.

"We have other police agencies with half the population that have more investigators than we have. But I know that fiscal restraints prevent us from increasing our complement, so we just have to look at finding … more efficient ways to do what we do. It would be wonderful to get another 10 more detectives here, but realistically, that's not going to happen.

"It's human nature that when somebody says something, we want to see the results straight away. But from my experience …  whether it's policing or just life in general, significant change sometimes … it doesn't happen overnight. But I can tell you that there are steps already that we have taken and we are taking to change things."