Police beat: Recognizing our local constables

ImageThings have been pretty quiet on the crime front in Centretown for some time now and this has some of us pondering on why this could be. Before I launch myself in the results of this pondering, I would like to first take the opportunity to wish all you a Happy New Year. I hope 2009 brings all of you inner peace, happiness and the courage to look into the face of fear and apathy do something about it. There seems to be a lull in crime in Centretown and this can be seen various ways. There are less concerns being brought up at community safety meetings and the crime stats indicated that there is an overall drop in crimes being reported to police for the Central West District 23 Division of the Ottawa Police (Centretown is included in this). In 2008, there was an overall drop in break and enters, thefts from vehicles and personal robberies compared to 2007. The question is why?

As much as I would like to say that the police presence and dedicated interventions over the past few years in Centretown have been a major factor in the decrease in crime, I know the answer is not that simple. I mean what is the real cause? The causes are probably many; here is why I think crime may be down in Centretown.

In my last article, I highlighted the impact one dedicated and passionate person could have on a community. I also mentioned the positive results that occur when several such people get together and work with the right municipal and grass roots community agencies to achieve the common goal of improving the quality of life for everyone in their community.

I believe that when there is a collaborative effort on behalf of all the stakeholders in a community, the natural consequence will be that the issues in question will eventually get resolved.

I believe that when compassionate and motivated humans get together, real solutions are possible. I also believe that it is important for others to see that it is very ordinary people, not some Hollywood superhero/saviour type who flies in to save the day for the rest of us ordinary folk, who can achieve these solutions. That is why I thought it fitting to counterbalance last month’s story by bringing you a profile of two police officers, who I believe also played a large role in making Centretown a safe and enjoyable community for everyone to live in.

After my first two months working as a community police officer, I quickly realized that I could not be in two places at once. I felt it important that I be available at the Community Police Centre during working hours, as I was hearing that the number one complaint from the public was that the CPC was “always closed.” I also knew why this was happening.

The previous CPC officer was spending time, as he should, walking around the Centretown community so that he could be aware, first hand what the issues were. To solve this issue, I immediately looked at liaising with the local beat officers for the Centretown area and that is how I came to know Constables Dave Zackrias and Steve Lewis.

Because I knew that both Const.  Zackrias and Const. Lewis (to be referred to as “Dave” and “Steve” for remainder of article) walked the beat on all the main streets of Centretown. Dave and Steve knew everything and everyone who was a regular patron, criminal, panhandler in areas such as Bank Street, Somerset Street, Gladstone Street, Sparks Street.

I have worked with many individuals in the police service and I have to say that the light of dedication, compassion and commitment to the principles of community based policing, shines no brighter than in Dave and Steve. Over the two years that we have all worked together, they have been my eyes and ears on the streets. They have both understood the value of teamwork in all its senses. Dave and Steve attend the CPC almost daily and share whatever knowledge they have on what is happening on the streets of Centretown.

Dave and Steve do not limit their beat duties to talking to shop keepers, aggressive panhandlers and concerned citizens. They also became actively engaged in attending community safety meetings, closing down a notorious crack business on Bank Street and they have closed down several “boose can” houses and have met with many landlords and assisted them in getting evictions for unruly tenants engaged in criminal activity. Not only was I impressed with the fact that these two officers were taking on all these issues outside their beat mandate,

I was more impressed with the creative and ingenious ways they went about getting the job done. Soon I was hearing their praises being sung from every community meeting I attended. So much so, that I dedicated a portion of the police/community website (www.somersetcpc.ca) to them to further highlight their work. As I got to know both officers, I slowly learned where their passion for community comes from.

Dave, is originally from India (and a huge cricket fan) and Steve who is of Lebanese descent (whose family has strong ties to local merchants), are actually long time friends who share a passion for making a difference. Because of their respective cultures, they both truly value family and community. Neither one takes for granted the efforts it takes to build harmonious relations in a community and both have an intrinsic sense what to do when things go wrong in the community they work in.

This dedication that they both bring to their roles, has won the hearts of many Centretown residents who know first- hand how these two beat officers have positively impacted their community. Unfortunately all good things come to an end and a new mandatory transfer policy at the Ottawa Police will see both officers moved into another position to allow new officers the chance of walking the Centretown beat.

I just hope that these new officers will bring the same level of passion for making a difference, as I believe this played an importance role in why things are so quiet in our backyard.