Lowertown rife with crime, researchers show

Ottawa's Lowertown neighbourhood has a far higher rate of reported crime than any other area of downtown Ottawa, according to new research from a pair of master's students at the University of Ottawa.

Reported crimes against people, property eclipse rates in neighbouring areas

Ottawa police patrol the ByWard Market in February 2018. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Ottawa's Lowertown neighbourhood has a far higher rate of reported crime than any other area of downtown Ottawa, according to new research from a pair of master's students at the University of Ottawa.

The Lowertown Community Association hired criminology students Samantha Cima and Eilish McNamara to analyze six years of data from Ottawa police, the city's bylaw department, local business groups and the association's surveys.

The researchers found there were more crimes per 10,000 people in Lowertown — roughly defined as the Byward Market east to the Rideau River and south to Besserer Street — than there were in Sandy Hill, Centretown and the area of Vanier south of Montreal Road combined.

Crimes against people
Neighbourhood201120122013201420152016TOTAL
Lowertown3603713783813553832,228
Centretown125134138134151146828
Sandy Hill83949788103101566
Vanier South120101125122137109717

It was a similar story for crimes against property from 2011 to 2016.

Crimes against property
Neighbourhood201120122013201420152016TOTAL
Lowertown1,5421,3881,1551,2361,0801,1177,518
Centretown6636315835815635393,560
Sandy Hill4874834504293814072,198
Vanier South4884294493734405632,742

The study's authors say crime rates are much higher in the ByWard Market than the rest of Lowertown, though crimes against property are trending down.

Examples of crimes against people include robbery, assault and sexual offences, while crimes against property include break and enter and theft under $5,000 — by far the most common crime reported in Lowertown.

Their solutions

The secretary of the association's board of directors said the numbers back up what residents have been experiencing over the last five years.

Norman Moyer said he wants to see fewer bars in the area, and points out the city has the power to make that happen.

The researchers also suggested taking steps to reduce excessive drinking and the crimes that are linked to it, such as reducing opening hours and banning drink promotions.

More important, they said, is increasing investment in affordable housing and raising the minimum wage to help the most vulnerable.

"Until these systemic issues are tackled, measures to prevent crime will continue to lead to crime [moving to other areas]," they said.

They said boosting police funding has been shown to be an ineffective strategy for reducing crime.

With files from Dominique Degré