The number of shootings in Ottawa has declined 20 per cent from this time in 2018, a year in which the city set a record for the most shootings ever.To date, Ottawa police have been called to 45 shooting incidents in 2019, compared to 54 at the same date in 2018. This trend has developed despite three shootings in the city since last weekend, the most recent of which wounded an 18-year-old teen early Thursday on Ritchie Street near Carling Avenue.Five of the city’s 10 homicides in 2019 have been shooting deaths, including one man who was fatally shot by Ottawa police officers near Elmvale Acres Shopping Centre.
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit was investigating after a 30-year-old man died following a confrontation with Ottawa police at the Elmvale Acres Shopping Centre on Jan. 31.
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Insp. Carl Cartright, head of the Ottawa Police Service Guns and Gangs unit, knows it’s far too early to say the city won’t reach last year’s record 78 shootings, but says the reduction does reflect officers’ hard work at reducing gun violence.“We’re doing our best to stem the tide. It’s not just luck,” Cartright said. “Since December, we’ve been doing a lot of hard work identifying specific individuals and specific groups, and we’re ensuring police have a more visible presence in the community.”Cartright gave special credit to front-line patrol officers, saying they have done “excellent work” finding and seizing illegal firearms.Ottawa police have seized 40 “crime guns” this year, including a loaded Smith and Weston .38 Special revolver and a Ruger P95 9 mm in a car they stopped on Lorry Greenberg Drive on Friday morning. One day before that, officers seized a loaded .45-calibre pistol in a drug stop in Vanier. Police seized 68 crime guns in 2018, 82 in 2017 and 63 in 2016.A decade ago, Ottawa police responded to 20 shootings a year, but today young men are often reaching for handguns “over the most minute disagreements,” Cartright said.Cartright has been tasked with preparing a report on gun violence for the Ottawa Police Services Board, which is examining the issue after city council turned to the board for help amid calls for a total ban of handguns in Ottawa. Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King proposed a handgun ban in June after a spate of deadly shootings in the ByWard Market.Toronto Mayor John Tory also wants handguns banned from his city after a violent August long weekend on which 17 people were shot in 14 separate incidents.Upwards of 80 per cent of Ottawa’s crime guns come over the border from the United States illegally, Cartright said. Dealing with them is difficult because guns are so portable and can stay in circulation for years.“Weapons have a lifespan of decades. A gun that’s in Ottawa one weekend might turn up in Montreal the next and Toronto the next,” he said.“We’re going to take a look at what’s worked in other jurisdictions, but the question is then, ‘Is this transferable to Ottawa?’ Because what works somewhere else might not work here.”
A man was shot to death in the Byward Market in early June.
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Irvin Waller, a professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa and author of the book Science and Secrets of Ending Violent Crime, published this spring, says early intervention is key.“You can’t arrest your way out of this problem,” Waller said.In Scotland, the city of Glasgow reduced violent crime by 50 per cent over three years through a comprehensive program that identified violent youth — who mostly used knives — and pushed them into social programs with outreach workers.“They were the pioneers,” Waller said. “I think we could do even better.”One key is enlisting parents and family members to help steer these young men away from the violent lifestyle. “The parents don’t like the choice they have of, ‘My son’s going to be killed, my son’s going to be in a wheelchair or my son’s going to jail.’ There’s a lot of motivation for them to help.”In some cases, outreach workers have approached young victims of violence while they’re being treated in hospital.“Even while the doctor is sewing them up, you come in and talk to them. At this critical moment, when they are in pain, you’re trying talk them out of vengeance — going back and killing the guy who shot them — and also trying to talk them into doing something better with their lives,” Waller said.Closed-circuit TV cameras have also been proposed as a way to control gun violence in the ByWard Market. The problem, according to Waller, is they don’t work.“Every inch of Glasgow is covered by TV cameras. (Police) can actually watch people killing each other. What it shows is the cctv doesn’t work because these guys aren’t thinking when they do these things.”Cartright, too, has doubts about the usefulness of CCTV, although it can help police catch suspects.“We deal with video evidence every day. Of course we’re going to use it. (But) whether cameras will lessen crime or just displace it to somewhere else, we don’t know.”email@example.comTwitter.com/getBAC