Pubdate: Sun, 02 May 2004
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Andrejs Berzins


Re: Police need help fighting gangs, APRIL 27.

I have read with interest the stories about the Ottawa police service's 
concerns about gang violence and organized cocaine trafficking in some 
parts of our city. I don't disagree that this may be a serious problem that 
needs to be addressed, but I question the strategy chosen by our public 

The Citizen reported that police Chief Vince Bevan wants charges under 
federal organized-crime law. Ironically, in the same edition, a tiny 
article reported that an Ottawa community-based organization, which was 
founded to help educate residents about methods of preventing crime, was 
disbanded this week ("Crime prevention centre disbands"). The Ottawa Centre 
for Crime Prevention had to cease operations after failing to get funds 
from Ottawa council during the 2004 budget deliberations.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I chaired that non-profit organization, 
then known as the Crime Prevention Council of Ottawa. It was designed to 
promote local crime-prevention strategies and to reduce fear of crime in 
the community. The council was funded by the City of Ottawa, and crime 
prevention was seen as a responsibility not only of the criminal justice 
system but shared equally with housing agencies, social services, 
education, youth recreation and the business sector.

 From my experience as a former Crown attorney in Ottawa, I know that 
simply laying charges under a new section of the Criminal Code will not 
solve the problem of gang violence. The criminal justice system is far too 
ineffective a tool to accomplish that.

A much broader strategy that addresses the root causes of crime and 
involves the community and all agencies working together is required. It is 
unfortunate that Ottawa council does not seem to appreciate the important 
co-ordinating role that an organization such as the Ottawa Centre for Crime 
Prevention can play in such an approach.

Andrejs Berzins,

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