Outreach among ways cited to combat numbers: Report

Ottawa has a gang problem.



It’s not the worst in the country — in fact, we’re near the bottom of big Canadian cities in terms of gang member density — but we must act now, before it gets out of control.



That’s according to a report commissioned by Crime Prevention Ottawa entitled, ‘Now is the Time to Act: Youth Gang Prevention in Ottawa,’ that estimates there are 0.53 gang members for every 1,000 city residents.

That’s compared to Winnipeg, which has the highest gang member density at 4.32 per thousand. But if Ottawa is to remain near the bottom, the report advises that the city must fill gaps in its gang prevention strategy.

"The biggest gaps in service delivery … were, among other things, broad-based awareness programs, the capacity of the Ottawa Police School Resource Officer program, youth outreach programs and quality community house programs," the report states.

The report cites the need for protection, a sense of belonging, income through drug sales, a lack of school engagement and inadequate parental supervision as main reasons youth here join gangs.

Life skills development, organized after-schools programs, mentorship programs, and primary prevention programs would be most effective in preventing youth gang involvement.

It also recommends the CPO and the Ottawa Police work to identify ‘hot spots’ — neighbourhoods most at risk for gang activity — and target efforts there.

The report recommends that Ottawa expand the membership of its youth gang committee to include more representatives from various stakeholders. In particular, it singled out Ottawa Community Housing.

The report draws a "demonstrated link" between communities most associated with youth and street gang behaviour and Ottawa Community Housing.

Researcher, author and gangs expert Michael Chettleburgh will present the report in Ottawa this morning at city hall.


how Ottawa stacks up

  • In terms of gang members per 1,000 people, Toronto is fourth, behind Regina and Saskatoon, with 1.23. Montreal has the lowest gang member density with only 0.28 gang members per 1,000 residents.