Bayswater/Somerset community safety meeting follow-up
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On November 10, I held a community safety meeting to discuss resident concerns in the vicinity of Bayswater and Somerset, and the immediate area. We held the meeting in the wake of several violent incidents beginning on October 21 when there was the discharge of a firearm in the street, followed in relatively quick succession by a knifepoint robbery, gunpoint robbery, then a stabbing. The Happy Goat coffee was packed with around 90 residents to discuss the incidents, and what we as a community could do.
I can't summarize the whole meeting in one post, but there were several highlights that should be pointed out.
Multiple residents told us that the Vibe Cafe at that corner, and the parking lot next to it, has been a challenge for several years. Even though Vibe lost its liquor licence this year, residents continue to feel unsafe in its vicinity as they say persons who congregate in the parking lot act aggressively to people living nearby. Residents spoke about drug and drinking activity in the vicinity that is unacceptable. The recent fights on the street are consistent with what residents describe as a perpetual problem in the area.
Police are and have been for some time aware of these concerns, and are working with residents, the City and community association to try to address them with the tools they have.
We also heard from police that they have arrested individuals for robberies in other parts of the City, and that there may be a link between those individuals and the Bayswater/Somerset-area robberies. For the moment, residents seem reassured that those specific instances have been addressed.
At our meeting, we heard at length about the need for continued, proactive police help to curb illegal behaviour at this corner. We also heard multiple suggestions to police that surveillance be stepped up as the violence appears to have escalated in the area. I know that police have been more proactive since these incidents. While things have been quieter in the past couple of weeks, we don't want to slip into complacency.
There was also a significant discussion about things residents might do. One of the important suggestions was to resurrect a Neighbourhood Watch in the area. I'll be working with the Hintonburg Community Association and Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Association to provide whatever help and resources I can in that effort.
Another key part of the conversation was around reporting problems. Residents often don't know who to call for help, and may be unaware of the subtleties of calling different agencies. To help, it's useful to know who to call when:
For crimes in progress, especially where there is a risk of harm to persons or property, call 9-1-1.
For public nuisance calls, call police dispatch. Phone 613.236.1212 and ask for dispatch. It's important to note that police won't respond to noise calls, which are a by-law matter. When calling police, be sure to frame your request in terms of something that they enforce: violence, harassment, public nuisance, drinking in public, or illegal drug activity. Mentioning noise may be counter-productive to getting a police response.
For noise calls, call 3-1-1.
Unfortunately, calling 3-1-1 for noise will often not result in a by-law officer being dispatched immediately, and that looks unlikely to change in the near future. It's very important, however, to make the call anyway, as it is even for minor police matters. It is critical that we build a record of complaints for any next steps in the legal process.
At our meeting, we also spoke about the need for a safety audit of the lanes, which is now being arranged with police. And, some residents pointed us to a valuable resource on the Ottawa Police Service website about personal safety that they have found valuable.
As we established at the beginning of the meeting, no immediate solutions were likely to be found. But, our key goal of ensuring residents had a chance to be heard by police and me and to share their stories, and of providing residents with a sense of concrete next steps was achieved. I know the Hintonburg Community Association will be sharing more with residents in the near future.
Both the police and the City are and will be working to achieve a final resolution to the issue of violence at this corner in the near-to-mid-term. I am grateful that residents came out in such numbers, but not surprised. This corner has been the source of a significant challenge to quality of life for too long. Everyone who has a role to play in addressing it will do everything they can in the weeks to come.