Community Newspaper Columns

Best way to tackle crime is to invest in prevention

July 2016

Though I no longer sit on the board of Crime Prevention Ottawa — I had to let some responsibilities go when I took on the chairmanship of the city's Environment Committee — I continue to take an interest in the valuable work done by CPO. There is no more effective and cost-efficient way to tackle crime and the trauma that results than by investing in prevention. It won't stop all crime, but it does make a real difference in building a safer city.

CPO regularly organizes workshops, hosts public speakers and publishes short articles, often linked to more in-depth resources. Here are two recent ones on timely issues, and I encourage you to visit crimepreventionottawa.ca for more.

Understanding the dark side of social media:

Social media can play a tragic and life-changing role in sexual violence. Whether it involves teenagers sharing nude photos of a classmate, or posting sexual accusations or gossip online, texting threats to an ex-girlfriend, or recording sexual assault incidents and distributing them electronically, there are very serious consequences to the misuse of social media.

Crime Prevention Ottawa (CPO), in partnership with the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW), released a research report into this complex issue. Titled "Sexual Violence, Social Media and Youth", it examines the impact of social media on young people in situations involving sexual violence, and takes a community-based approach to examining the problem and its impact on victims and survivors.

The researchers found that little is known about the sexual nature of online abuse and harassment, and that a majority of sexual violence associated with social media goes unreported. They also found that abusive relationship patterns can be facilitated or maintained through social media, and concluded that young women and girls experience the highest rates of sexual violence associated with social media.

The report went on to identify the following priorities for the prevention of sexual violence associated with social media:

  • We need to understand what is unique about social media while recognizing that it does not in itself cause sexual violence.
  • We must support and build media literacy among children, teenagers and their parents.
  • We need to encourage youth and parents to define and develop healthy relationships in social media contexts.
  • We should draw from programs that educate and engage bystanders to prevent sexual violence.
  • We need to develop youth-driven programming that recognizes the different ways in which young people use and experience social media.

CPO and OCTEVAW consulted with the community following the report's release and, together with participants, identified prevention tools and next steps to help Ottawa deal with the problem. The presentation and interviews with participants are available at youtube.com/crimepottawavideos, and the final report is available at crimepreventionottawa.ca.

Don't stall, make the call:

How often have you thought or heard someone say, "I didn't want to make a big deal out of it," or, "I'm sure the police have bigger problems to worry about"?

But we also hear, "Where are the police when you need them?" or, "Our neighbourhood is going downhill."

We all want to feel safe in our homes and communities. The best way to do that is to be part of the solution: If you see a crime in progress, or you know of illegal activity taking place on your street or in your building, pick up the phone and call security or the police. They can help.

Why is this important? First of all, don't assume that police or building security already know about the problem or incident, or that nothing will happen if you report it. They take calls seriously and want you to feel safe and stay safe.

Beyond that, every call made to report a crime or suspicious activity gets counted, which helps show there is a problem and helps build the case for positive change in our communities.

Important numbers:

911: Report a crime in progress or a life-threatening emergency.

613-236-1222 ext. 7300: Report other crimes to the Ottawa Police Service, or make a report online at ottawapolice.ca.

613-233-8477 or 1-800-222-8477: Anonymously report information to Crime Stoppers.

211: Find out about community, social, health and government services.

311: Report bylaw infractions, potholes, garbage problems or other municipal issues. Even better, report the issue to Service Ottawa by visiting ottawa.ca or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

To learn more about dealing with crime or problems in your community or building, visit Crime Prevention Ottawa's Neighbourhood Toolkit at crimepreventionottawa.ca/toolkit.

Old Ottawa South has one of the lowest crime rates in the city, and personal security is not a daily worry for many of its residents. We can all play a part in keeping it that way.