Crime prevention plan aims to make downtown safer

By Sarah Hartwick

While walking down Lyon Street with her toddler son in her arms, Corianne Bell says she doesn’t think that stopping theft will make Centretown a safer community.

Drug use is the problem that needs to be dealt with, she says.

Bell was criticizing a new initiative from the National Capital Region Crime Stoppers. Businesses can form a partnership with the group, who will then teach them about crime prevention and keep them updated on criminal activity in their area.

The money earned through the partnership – $100 to $250 per business – goes towards the rewards Crime Stoppers has traditionally offered for anonymous tips that help solve crime, says the organization’s president, Devon Fermoyle.

Bell says she feels that the program could help to stop theft, but that might not translate to community safety.

“I can see the business interest, but I don’t know that it would help the neighbourhood,” she says.

If people continue to bring drugs into the area, she says, crime rates may not fall even with the new initiative because the program is targeting the wrong area. “Once we curtail the drug problem in Centretown, there will be a difference.”

But Fermoyle says once businesses start to get involved in the program, it will make the whole area a lot safer – and residents will benefit too.

The partnership program, launched late last month, is the first of its kind in the country. “This is the crime prevention side of Crime Stoppers,” Fermoyle says.

He says he hopes the program will raise community involvement with Crime Stoppers in Ottawa: “This is a service idea. We want to serve the community. One of the things we do is provide a vehicle for community safety.”

Stan Wise, owner of Rings Etc. says the program has the potential to help lower theft rates in Centretown, but probably couldn’t cut them out entirely. He says that although robbery is not common, it’s costly to businesses when it does happen.

“There is no guarantee in anything,” says Wise, “But whatever we do, it won’t hurt.”

Wise says his Bank Street jewelry store was robbed in the 1980s and lost what he estimated was around $300,000. He says it is unlikely that a program like the new partnership could have prevented the robbery, but says it could help with stopping smaller crimes. “We take as many precautions as we can, but if they want you, they’ll get you,” he says.

But another Centretown resident says that increasing community involvement could help stop theft and drug activity. “It has to be grassroots. It’s really the only way for it to effectively work,” he says, “People need to get involved on the ground level.”

The man did not want his name used because he has had clashes with drug dealers in the neighbourhood before.

Fermoyle says that the program will help businesses and that will transfer to the rest of the community.

Interest is already building, he says – he has already received several phone calls from businesses eager to take part.

“They see it as we do. They see it as a way to share in the community and clear it up a bit,” he says.

If the program is a success, he says, it could be adopted by Crime Stoppers units all over the country.