CTV News Exclusive: Police raise growing concerns over Rideau McDonald's

Ottawa Police have met with the owner of a downtown McDonald's amid growing safety concerns at 99 Rideau Street. 

The meeting happened just one day after police say a woman was sexually assaulted at the restaurant Wednesday morning.

Police say with Rideau Street being one of the busiest streets in the capital, it sees a lot of foot traffic.

"If you've got a criminal mind this is a target-rich environment," said Inspector Ken Bryden.

"It sees thousands of pedestrians a day, it draws a lot of activity."

Police say the area of Rideau has been a magnet for criminal activity for years.

"Street-level base calls, aggressive panhandlers, street-level drug handling, different violent type incidents, stabbings and assaults," said Bryden.

"This is a resource intensive area for calls for service, whether it's to support medical calls or investigate a criminal offense."

Speaking with residents outside the location, many said they don't feel safe eating at 99 Rideau.

"When you come here, you're afraid," said one resident outside the McDonald's on Rideau.

"If you're here at night, it's pretty sketchy," one customer tells CTV News.

In March, Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau wrote a letter to the President and CEO of McDonald's Canada, in a plea for help.

"I am writing to request your immediate attention and action in relation to ongoing criminal activity and social disorder issues at the McDonald's franchise located at 99 Rideau Street in Ottawa," said Bordeleau in the letter dated March 15th 2019.

"Officers attend this location on a daily basis to address issues including vagrancy, liquor license violations, illicit drug use, and incidents of violence."

Bordeleau goes on to say there has been a steady incline of calls for police at the restaurant since 2014, and it poses a risk to the public.  

"Criminal activity surrounding this location has reached a critical level with more than 843 calls for police in 2018 alone."

Following the sexual assault Wednesday, police say the franchise owner met with officers and city officials Thursday to discuss solutions to the safety concerns.

In a statement to CTV News, the owner and operator of the McDonald's at 99 Rideau says he too is concerned for staff and residents.

"As a local business owner, I too am concerned with issues in our neighbourhood, particularly around my restaurant," said Adeel Hashmi.

"That's because I always want to provide my guests with a safe and comfortable experience every time they visit."

Hashmi goes on to say he will be taking further action to provide a more secure environment for patrons.

"Just this week I met with OC Transpo and the local police on solutions, as we all have a role in helping make this area a safer environment," said Hashmi.

"I can tell you that on my end I am increasing security presence at this location."

Police say they are also looking at design features both internally and externally in order to secure the location.