The streets are clean and relatively quiet. And what’s more, they feel safe.

Vanier is a far cry from the way it was even two years ago, before Crime Prevention Ottawa — along with the city, Ottawa police and neighbourhood residents — decided to take action.

“Vanier was a neighbourhood that had seen more than its fair share of issues,” said Ottawa Police District Insp. Alain Bernard, who oversees Vanier.

The area was plagued with problems of drug dealing and prostitution. And because there was no real ownership of the area, people were reluctant to come forward, Bernard said.

That Vanier is gone.

“Over the past year and a half, we’ve seen obvious changes that have taken place,” he said.

“And that, in large part, is because of the way the community mobilized to take back the streets.”

In a 2006 analysis of the crime and socio-economic data of neighbourhoods in the city, “Vanier wasn’t the worst, but when we approached the neighbourhoods, they were the most enthusiastic to work with us,” said Nancy Worsfold of Crime Prevention Ottawa.

“We started seeing some real community champions,” Bernard said. “They were beautifying the community and reporting incidents and forming neighbourhood watch groups, which were non-existent just a year and a half ago,” he said. “We saw the pride that people took in looking after their own communities.”

The difference, Bernard said, is palpable even to non-residents.

“People are really aware of the changes and they feel that crime is going down in the community,” Worsfold added.

“To sustain it, you have to continue working and to remain vigilant,” Bernard said. “But I think it’s a real model for other communities to emulate.

“Now, this is really the place to be.”

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