Ottawa Police report dramatic rise in swarmings, personal robberies this year

Ottawa Police are reporting a dramatic rise in the number of swarmings and personal robberies in our city, the first time these crimes are trending upwards in years.  According to police, swarmings are up 24% over the same time last year and personal robberies are up 55%. We've seen violent purse snatchings in the Byward Market and large swarmings in Ottawa's east end.  The question is why the rise in robberies this year and police don't have an answer.

There is safety in numbers, so when teens head out at a park in Orleans, they stick together, in public areas and in daylight.

“There's a lot of people that have been doing bad things to other people,” says one 13-year-old girl, “and I don't know how to think about it.”

“My mom, she won't let me outside at dark,” says her friend, “because she keeps telling me stories about how people are getting swarmed.”

Ottawa Police know of at least two swarmings in the area around 10th line but they suspect there are a lot more.  The problem is getting the victims to come forward because often they know their attackers.

The swarmings in Orleans involve groups of 5 to 10 young people, targeting cell phones, money, even shoes.

“Yeah, it's getting scary,” says Orleans resident Marie Laurin, “and I'm getting weary with the fact that I wouldn't want to go out at night or alone anymore.”

It's a troubling trend this year.  So far this year, there have been 119 swarmings, which involve two or more suspects. That's up 24% over the same time last year.  And personal robberies, which involve one suspect, are up 55% from 60 last year to 93 this year.

“Over the course of the last 5 to 6 years, our numbers have been trending down each year,” says Staff Sergeant Michael Haarbosch, with the Ottawa Police Robbery and Break and Enter Unit, “so this is first year we are trending in the wrong direction.

Many of those encounters are violent, more violent, Haarbosch says than robberies at banks or convenience stores.  Last month, a woman in her 70's was dragged to the ground on Rideau Street after a purse snatching.  She broke her leg. The man fled and two people chased him.  They got the purse back but didn't catch him.

“I always have my phone in the pocket here,” says a woman walking along Rideau Street, “I hold it and I hold my purse and I always have cross body bags.”

“What do I do to protect myself?” says another woman, “Actually my purse is empty. It's a decoy.”

So, what do you do if you are robbed or swarmed? Police advise people to give the attackers what they want.  Then call police right away.  The quicker they respond, the more likely they are to catch the people doing this