Community Safety Meeting 11-Sep-2019 Report

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Report from the Community Safety meeting hosted by Councilor Fleury 

September 11, 2019 6:00pm – 7:30pm

90 University (University of Ottawa campus)

Notes by Betsy Schuurman

 

Stated purpose of meeting: Discussion related to ongoing safety concerns in our community. Our community partners will be present to provide a brief overview of services offered in the area, as well as a contextual overview of many of the issues we have been experiencing as a community. Ottawa Police along with Crime Prevention Ottawa will also be present. There will be smaller roundtable discussions, with a larger group discussion to close off the evening.

 

Community Partners:

Councilor Fleury

David Gibson, Executive Director of the Sandy Hill Community Health Care Centre

Cst. Sébastien Lemay, Community Police Officer for Sandy Hill and several other officers (did not catch their name / rank)

Nancy Worsfold, Executive Director of Crime Prevention Ottawa

Susan Young, President of Action Sandy Hill

 

Fleury introduced the community partners and they each spoke.

 

The SHCHC has also noticed a change in what’s happening in the neighbourhood, starting in April. The SHCHC has 460 clients for its Supervised Consumption Treatment Site. The composition of the drugs the users of the safe consumption site are using has changed- the drugs have more varied chemicals in them and wear off more quickly, which has resulted in higher usage of the facilities. The closure of the Beer Store and the change in hours at the McDonalds on Rideau may have also resulted in some people who used to hang out in that area moving into our neighbourhood. The personnel at the SHCHC have also seen an increase in aggressive and unpredictable behaviour and have had to hire a security guard as a result.

 

Sébastien Lemay- The Ottawa Police Service is working to deal with issues but we need to report, report, report so that the statistics show what we’re seeing and they’ll be able to make the case for more resources. Drug dealing and gang activity are big problems in the city and are very difficult to fight. The relevant units that are working on these issues are the Drug Unit, the Street Crime Unit, and Guns & Gangs. The Bikes & Beats program does bike patrol in Centretown, Vanier, and the Byward Market, and does pass through Sandy Hill, but we are not its focus. There’s also new pilot project of Neighbourhood Resource Teams for Vanier, Heatherington, and Caldwell (neighbourhoods with gun violence due to gang activity) beginning in October, but again, Sandy Hill is not yet a candidate for this program. There is a tool called a Demand for Service Request where police will patrol if they have downtime but that is not often.

 

Nancy Worsfold- Crime Prevention Ottawa has also noticed the spike in undesirable behaviour and increased drug usage and is working to understand why. The increase is unexpected as all the research indicates that when a supervised consumption site opens, injectable usage doesn’t usually increase. She noted that these changes are also very dangerous for the users and that they are at high risk of being victims of violence as well.

 

Susan Young – thanked those that have been emailing ASH with descriptions and photos, as they can then pass those straight on to our Community Police Officer Constable Lemay, and the Councillor’s office. Reiterated the importance of making our voices heard, and raised the Neighbourhood Watch program.

 

Other general notes- there are 4 supervised consumption sites in Ottawa. 3 are funded by the province and 1 (in the Sexual Health Centre at Cumberland and Clarence) is funded by the city but funding will run out for that at the end of 2019. The other two in our area are the SHCHC which is open 8 am – 8 pm and a trailer at the Shepherd’s of Good Hope which is open 24 /7. The Downtown Rideau BIA had street ambassadors walking around Rideau over the summer. Shoppers and Loblaws are working with Councillor Fleury and have done walkarounds to identify ways to improve public safety. Councillor Fleury noted that there are many stakeholders and that some are funded by the province (such as the SHCHC) while some are controlled by the city, or regulated by the federal government.

 

Group discussions- Attendees discussed problems and solutions in small groups and reported back.

 

Problems- 

  • Increased public drug usage and dealing

  • Aggressive and anti-social behaviour, incl. soliciting (for sexual services or cash)

  • Needles and drug paraphernalia in parks and public areas

  • Loitering/trespassing on private property

  • Services for drug users, homeless persons and/or those with mental health issues are very centralized in our area

  • The areas around SHCHC and Loblaws, and along Besserer and adjoining streets have become a marketplace for drug dealers

  • Consumption site users at the SHCHC have nowhere to go after they leave the building, some do not want to go too far as they will need to consume again in a shorter period of time, day centres cannot take all the people that need somewhere, or will not take drug users

  • Chronic homelessness, and lack of safe injection sites where housing may be located

  • The wait for mental health services is too long (multiple years on waiting list)

 

Solutions- 

  • More police presence

  • Neighbourhood Watch program by residents

  • More safe injection sites throughout city, and commensurate housing

  • Better lighting

  • Remove plaza created by closure of Nelson at Besserer by reopening road

  • Move services out of our area

  • Provide more support and opportunities for users of SHCHC such as work opportunities

  • Legalize drugs

  • Open a monitored space for people using drugs to go at night

  • Get liaisons from Quebec and Ontario public health involved

  • Need more people on foot in the neighbourhood to report

  • Need easier methods of reporting, especially for non-emergency situations like loitering and suspected drug dealing

 

Next Steps- Councillor Fleury’s office will compile the information from the session and produce a report. He’ll invite more community partners to take part in future discussions. There will be another meeting scheduled for follow up at some point.