Ottawa's mayor and police chief are vowing to step up law enforcement efforts — and also urging the public to come forward with information — as the city deals with a surge in gun violence.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, Mayor Jim Watson and police Chief Charles Bordeleau both blamed a series of shootings this month on a small group of criminals, mostly involved with the local drug trade.
"The foundation is around drug trafficking. Whether it's marijuana, whether it's opioids, it is generally related to an increasing trafficking in drugs — and the competitve nature of that business," said Bordeleau.
"What we're seeing is street-level-involved gangs, both structured and unstructured. We don't see this as high-level organized crime."
The shootings killed two and injured others.
12 shootings so far
Watson's and Bordeleau's remarks echoed comments made earlier this week by police, who blamed the spike in the number of shootings in Ottawa on a turf war involving rival gangs.
"It's gone to places like Findlay Creek, which you never hear of [as a hotspot for] criminal activity," said Watson Friday.
"We are a safe community. But when you live in a neighbourhood that has seen gun violence or has seen a murder, that doesn't amount to a hill of beans, us saying that."
There have already been 12 incidents of gun-related violence in the city since the start of the year.
In 2017 there was a total of 74 shootings, police told CBC News before the meeting.
More bail checks
Both the mayor and the police chief said Friday that the firearms were either being obtained through local break-and-enters or smuggled across the U.S. border.
Bordeleau said the entire police force, from intelligence and drug unit officers to those working in schools and at community stations, had been "mobilized and realigned" to stop the violence.
"This is their number 1 priority. They're all focused on this issue here. They all have specific activities they've been tasked with," he said.
He said the force was stepping up compliance checks for people out on bail, giving patrol officers — rather than just officers with the force's direct action response (DART) team — the authority to make sure they're abiding by their conditions.
Bordeleau also said it was "frustrating" to see the same people being charged, released on bail, then arrested again.
"The reality is that some individuals that are out there are very well-known to the police, and they continue to reoffend. And it's our job to keep on top of them."
'Please say something'
Earlier this week, Ottawa police investigators told CBC News they want shooting victims to cooperate rather than take vengeance into their own hands.
Bordeleau said Friday he understood there was a "fear of retaliation" in those communities that would prevent victims or witnesses from speaking with police.
He nevertheless urged people to come forward with any information, anonymously if need be.
Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, echoed that sentiment.
"As much as the community needs the police, the police needs the community. We need your help," El-Chantiry said.
"This is what we need the most from our community. If you know something, please say something."