Community Policing and Safe Barrhaven, Councillor Jan Harder, City of Ottawa
Last November 19th, I hosted a Community Police Meeting that brought senior Police staff and residents together to discuss policing issues in Barrhaven. Some of the topics addressed included traffic enforcement, street and gang violence, and home and personal safety. The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) recently released a survey that was organized in the last year that pointed out the concerns Ottawa residents had. The top three were: traffic, gang violence, and break and enters. Luckily for Barrhaven, gang violence isn’t impacting much our community. The OPS is aware there is lots of work to do with communities but that as a whole, Ottawa being the large city it is, is very safe.
This past fall, many Barrhaven residents were targets of a spate of break and enters. Although not reassuring to the victims, the OPS offered statistics to show that there has not been a rise in numbers from the previous years. The OPS shared some very good tips on how to keep your home and your person from being an easy target.
To keep yourself safe from potentially becoming a victim, one of the best practices you can do is to stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings and small precautions like using only one earbud while walking so you can hear if someone is approaching you. This tip is especially useful for teens who seem to always be plugged in. As well, use the buddy system. Try and be with a friend when walking in unknown areas or late at night.
Other tips include to be discreet and to avoid uncomfortable situations. Being discreet is as simple as making sure that your valuables aren’t exposed, for example, when pulling out your wallet out of a bag or pocket. Furthermore, pay attention to your gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to those instincts and bring yourself to a safer situation. Finally, let your friends and family know your itinerary. Let someone know where you are going and expected a time of arrival.
To prevent home break-ins, there are many steps you can take to protect yourself and your home. According to Inspector Ken Bryden of the OPS, Barrhaven is a target-rich environment in that it is densely populated and an upper-middle-class community. To prevent a home invasion, be selective of who you let in. Thieves sometimes impersonate hydro workers and the police for example. Always ask for identification before letting anyone enter your home. Elderly people are extremely vulnerable, so if you have a parent who is alone, remind them to avoid answering the door if they are not expecting anyone.
Surprisingly, the police have found that many break and enters have been made easy for criminals because doors and windows were left unlocked. Many thieves don’t want to put the effort of having to break through a window especially if it might bring attention to their activities.
Some other useful tips include using window coverings to obscure the views into your home; use alarm signs to deter thieves (they want an easy hit and do not want to run the risk of triggering an alarm); keep the lawn mowed and driveways shovelled to show your home is currently occupied; finally, avoid posting on social media that you are going away on vacation – post the pictures after you get back!
Traffic complaints keep the police incredibly busy. Unfortunately, the OPS does not have enough resources to have a cruiser parked at every intersection and in fact that method of patrolling traffic has shown to be ineffective. Police now rely on the community to let them know what areas need to be patrolled. This innovative approach uses evidence-based data gathered by online reporting, as well as phone calls, to target areas where traffic issues are rampant. Furthermore, this information is studied by analysts to help choose the areas that police will do blitzes – such as the R.I.D.E. program and school zones, and STEP, the program that I wrote about last month. Hence, it is imperative that members of the community do their part and report traffic issues online or by calling the non-emergency police line.
The OPS are simply one part of the equation when it comes to keeping lives and properties safe and secure. We must work together as a community to help the police do their job. Working together as a community like using the online reporting tool, keeping an eye out for our neighbours and making sure as individuals we take precautions with our persons and property, will go a long way to keep Barrhaven safe.