Boost social services to prevent shootings, says crime expert

Ottawa police have responded to half a dozen shootings since the start of 2018, prompting calls for the city to change its tactics when it comes to tackling gun violence.

Just 2 weeks into 2018, Ottawa police have already responded to 6 shootings

A man died in a shooting on Paul Anka Drive on Jan. 9, marking Ottawa's first homicide of 2018. (CBC)

Ottawa police have responded to half a dozen shootings since the start of 2018, prompting calls for the city to change its tactics when it comes to tackling gun violence.

"City council is just going on doing more of the same," University of Ottawa criminologist Irvin Waller told CBC News.

"It has not been shifting to a much more preventive approach."

The city has responded to a growing number of shootings primarily by hiring more police officers, Waller said.

While that may help, Waller said city officials should also increase funding for social programs that have been proven to curb revenge shootings.

"The evidence is very strongly there," Waller said. "City council may not be aware of the sorts of things that have worked, the sorts of investments they need to make."

Residents rattled by shooting

Waller's comments came one day after the city's sixth shooting of 2018, when several shots were fired Saturday night on a quiet residential street in Bells Corners.

No one was injured in the shooting, but police said one vehicle was damaged.

Mustafa Bayram says the recent rash of shootings in Ottawa is especially frightening for parents raising young families. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Mustafa Bayram lives just steps away from where police recovered more than half a dozen bullet casings.

"It's scary, especially when you're raising a family," Bayram said Sunday morning. "Everybody's walking by, walking their dog and saying hello. Then all of the sudden, it's like — a gunshot. That's scary."

News of the shooting also came as a shock to Collin Teasdale, who lives nearby.

"We didn't think this type of event would happen here," he said. "Hopefully, it's not going to be a trend that's going to keep on growing."

Collin Teasdale and Jodi Bartsch say they still feel safe living in Bells Corners after Saturday's shooting, but are surprised that gun violence has hit so close to home. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Spate of gun violence

It's too soon to say what the rash of shootings might signal for the coming year, Waller said.

But unlike homicides, not all shootings are reported, which makes them a less reliable indicator of violent crime.

Waller instead points to Ottawa's homicide rate, which in 2016 was roughly three times higher than it had been over the past several years.

While the number of homicides in the city did fall last year, the homicide rate remained higher than in other recent years.

More prevention efforts

Waller acknowledged that Crime Prevention Ottawa has updated its strategy, focusing less on hardened criminals and more on low-level drug dealers.

Still, he said it's not clear how much more money is actually going to programs aimed at preventing shootings.

The shooting on Priam Way in Bells Corners was the city's sixth shooting of 2018. Police recovered between seven and 10 bullet casings. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

To be effective, those social services and outreach efforts should specifically target youth and young men, Waller said.

They could include youth inclusion programs similar to those in place in Glasgow, Scotland, or a combination of outreach, mentoring and mediation programs adopted in cities across the United States.

"It's not just that young men get injured or killed. It's the effect on the community and their family," Waller said.

"This is very much not good news for the city."