Candidates and residents push for a return to communitiy policing

An increase in violent crime in Ottawa is prompting a call for the return of community policing. It’s become a hot button among some candidates in the upcoming municipal election.   There is nothing like an election to make people take stock of what matters in their community.

In the south end of Ottawa, it's stopping crime and especially gun violence.

Nothing says South Keys more than shawarma. 

“Just in this block, at the corner of Bank and Hunt Club,” says Abbas Sobh, the manager at the Shawarma Palace, “you have just 4 restaurants, all shawarma.”

But some residents would say their area is famous for more than this Middle Eastern wrap.

In May, dozens of residents were in lockdown after a fatal shooting in a backyard off Cahill Drive.

In June, police responded to a shooting at a local pizza parlour at Bank and Hunt Club.

Then in July, stray bullets flew into two homes in the area

“In general, the gun violence has gone up over the years,” says Sobh, “I don't know the solution but it's something they need to look at.”

The owner of KS on the Keys restaurant would agree.  Robert Swaita is running against incumbent Diane Deans in Gloucester-Southgate with a focus on fixing the crime problem here.  How?  A return to community policing,  where officers are assigned to patrol a specific area and become more familiar with the residents and the issues. 

“Unfortunately there's a lot of crime that's happening with these minority communities, and in particular the Arab community,” says Swaita, “I'm an Arab. We need someone who understands how they think and how we can help and that's what I mean by go back to community policing so that the police can understand who they're trying to protect.”

Ottawa councilor Diane Deans says she argued against moving away from community policing -- and has been fighting for its return.

“I really believe in community policing, she says, ““We have seen an escalation in street crime and we have seen a move away from community policing model so we can all draw our own conclusions.”

The issue goes beyond the borders of Gloucester-Southgate.  It's come up at many of the debates as concern rises over crime rates.

“When we had local officers who knew residents, who knew businesses, and who knew the people who are selling drugs, it was much easier,” says Ottawa councilor Mathieu Fleury, who is also advocating for a return of community policing.

It will be an issue front and centre for new councillors after the election

“We heard it loud and clear that the residents want us to revisit the community policing model,” says Eli El-Chantiry, the chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board.

Diane Deans says there were budgetary reasons why Ottawa moved away from community policing in the last couple years.

Bringing it back will mean more money and likely higher taxes.