Fulcrum – Sandy Hill residents may have been shocked to read about a recent burst of criminal behaviour in their neighbourhood, but community groups are reassuring citizens that crime is actually on the decline in Ottawa. The heavily student-populated community has experienced a home invasion and a homicide this month; however, police and community groups maintain that these incidents were isolated.
“Sandy Hill is a very safe place to live. There are a few incidents that were high-profile, but that is not indicative of safety,” explained Ottawa Police Service (OPS) Constable Uday Jaswal. “Given the fact that Sandy Hill is a downtown core, there will always be issues of crime; but looking at the [statistics], they haven’t really changed this year from last—in fact, they have decreased.”
According to the OPS, the number of robberies in the Rideau-Vanier municipal ward—of which Sandy Hill is a part—has dropped from 131 incidents in 2007 to 103 incidents in 2008. Over the same two years, the number of assaults has also significantly decreased, from 720 to 605. Although the 2010 statistics have yet to be released, the OPS has emphasized that the numbers are continuing to decline.
“If you track the crime statistics, all of them [are] on the decline; and any of them [that] have been up are the ones that are generally so small,” said Student Federation of the University of Ottawa VP University Affairs Ted Horton, a Sandy Hill resident of four years.
Currently, Ottawa Police are investigating a reported robbery that occurred March 18, when three male suspects, armed with a gun, broke into a home in the 100 block of Osgoode Street. According to Jaswal, these types of occurrences are not random, and generally the victims and the perpetrator know each other.
“It is important that students contribute to the community, know their neighbours, and work with global groups to improve issues in the community,” said Jaswal.
However, a more serious incident occurred days earlier on March 16, when a 73-year-old man was discovered dead in his Chapel Crescent home. The OPS major crime unit is still investigating the homicide and has not released further details of the incident.
“The cases are not connected to each other. They are not random incidents, but [they] were compressed by time,” said OPS Chief Inspector Ian Kingham during a board meeting with local community organization Action Sandy Hill (ASH).
ASH recognizes Sandy Hill as a diverse neighbourhood with a broad range of backgrounds and ages and often collaborates with the Ottawa Police at community events to ease tension in the community, spread safety tips, and raise awareness of potential security risks.
“The idea is to promote the police involvement as partners,” explained Joshua Zanin, vice-president of ASH. “ASH’s role has been to hold on to that [diversity] and retain it in our community.”
In addition to raising awareness, the OPS has been exploring further strategies, including an increase in weekend-long zero-tolerance blitzes and expanded patrols of the neighbourhood.
Despite the short burst of crime, Horton maintains that, by understanding what local rights and bylaws encompass and by using common sense, students should not have an issue with their continued residency in Sandy Hill.
“Generally, there are a couple high-profile incidents and people take that as an epidemic, or it is the people who live next door to houses with students having parties [who] take it to be indicative that Sandy Hill is always in an uproar,” Horton explained. “But generally, Sandy Hill is a quiet and respectful neighbourhood.”