Gun violence was the main concern voiced by residents of the Gloucester-Southgate ward at the electoral candidates’ meeting Oct. 11.
Three of the five candidates, Sam Soucy, Alek Golijanin and incumbent Diane Deans, were in attendance to answer questions from a crowd of around 40 people.
An increase in shootings around the South Keys area has many locals worrying about the safety of their children.
“I can’t take my kids to pick up pizza anymore because there’s a bullet hole in the wall of the pizza place at the corner of Bank and Hunt Club,” said Claire Fisher.
After Ottawa was devastated by six tornadoes two weeks ago, there was no news about the shooting in her area, she said — beyond mention that there was yet another shooting at the South Keys shopping mall plaza.
Ottawa has seen a significant spike in reported shootings over the last few years, from 32 in 2013 to 74 in 2017.
All three candidates agreed that the way to combat these violent crimes is to return to a community policing program.
“I believe community policing is part of our prevention program,” said Deans. “We need to have community police officers that are engaging with vulnerable youth and identifying them.”
She continued to say that youth are getting involved with violence at a very young age and that more funding needs to be put into prevention programs.
Soucy and Golijanin both agreed that community policing will have a positive effect but also thought the city wasn’t being proactive enough.
“It’s an issue that has been present for years and unfortunately the city’s strategy isn’t working,” said Soucy. “The City of Ottawa is very good at being reactive but they’re not being preventative and I think that’s the problem we’re facing now.”
He said that the city is looking to hire 500 new constables over the next five years if they can find the funding.
Golijanin said that Ottawa has one of the lowest police-to-citizen ratios in Canada and that “there is no time for fake activism at city hall.”
“When nobody at city hall speaks up for Ottawa police, the message that sends is that they don’t have any friends at city hall,” he said.
Other issues raised at the debate were transit cost and efficiency, safe injection sites and student housing.
The Ottawa municipal election takes place on Oct. 22.