Politicians reassure Bells Corners residents shaken by violence

Local politicians are reassuring nervous residents of Ottawa's Bells Corners neighbourhood that their community is safe despite a recent spate of violent crime there.

Coun. Rick Chiarelli, MPP Lisa MacLeod calling for increased police presence, Neighbourhood Watch

Carrie Chen and Leiling Zheng are thinking about changing their lunchtime walking route after a shooting in the city's Bells Corners neighbourhood on the weekend. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Local politicians are reassuring nervous residents of Ottawa's Bells Corners neighbourhood that their community is safe despite a recent spate of violent crime there. 

Bells Corners has seen two shootings in eight days this month, as well as the death of teenager Nick Hickey, who was killed when he was struck by a vehicle on Jan. 17. The incidents have stoked fears the neighbourhood is no longer safe.  

But Coun. Rick Chiarelli and MPP Lisa MacLeod, who said they've been meeting over the last week to discuss ways to keep residents calm, insisted Bells Corners remains safe.

"Bells Corners is the hidden gem of Ottawa. It is a wonderful community with thriving local businesses, with good schools and strong neighbourhoods and a lot of self reliance," MacLeod said. 

"We are noticing that there have been shootings elsewhere in the city ... so gun violence does seem to be up across the board."

Coun. Rick Chiarelli says Bells Corners needs better police presence following two shootings in the last month 0:50

'I'm really shocked'

Despite the politicians' assurances, the shooting over the weekend near Seyton Drive and Hammill Court has left residents shaken.

Gnanawathy Nagulendran lives on Hammill Court near the scene of the most recent shooting.

"I'm really shocked," she said. "A little bit scared, also."

Nagulendran said she's worried about the safety of her children, 17 and 11.

"We're a little concerned about the kids leaving alone, coming and going for school," she said.

Carrie Chen and Leiling Zheng work in the area and take walks along Seyton Drive during lunch breaks. Zheng said they're considering changing their route after the shooting.

"Ottawa's supposed to be a very safe place," Zheng said. "It's just unbelievable, it's very scary."

Bells Corners resident Gnanawathy Nagulendran says recent violence in the neighbourhood has her worried about her kids' safety. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Greater police presence

Chiarelli, who represents College Ward at Ottawa city hall, and MacLeod, who sits in the Ontario legislature for the Nepean–Carleton riding, are calling for increased police presence in Bells Corners, as well as the establishment of a Neighbourhood Watch program. 

"I just want to assure my constituents and Rick's that we're doing everything that we possibly can with the levers that we have to do that, but it's going to take the whole community to do it," MacLeod said. 

"Neighbours are incredibly important in helping their neighbours, in being the eyes and ears," she added. "That vigilance… would go a long way in keeping an eye on our vulnerable communities."

Chiarelli, who has called Bells Corners home for many years, admitted that he's never seen anything like the recent violence in the community. 

"There's an anti-gun, anti-gang strategy at the city that clearly needs to be tweaked because it's clearly not working," he said.

But he suggested Neighbourhood Watch programs can really make a difference. 

"I know in my own ward, Morrison Gardens used to among the most crime-ridden areas in the city. They established a really proactive and involved neighbourhood watch and now it's one of the safest places in the city. So that can be done, if people are willing to participate."