Police say 400-500 gang members in Ottawa
The numbers don't lie. According to the Ottawa Police Guns and Gangs Unit, there are between 400 and 500 gang members in the capital.
Staff Sgt. Ken Bryden revealed the numbers in a presentation to the Police Services Board on Monday night.
Other numbers include:
- 15 seperate gangs in Ottawa
- 83 gang members and associates arrested in 2014
- A record 49 shootings in the capital last year
- 18 people were injured
Hundreds of charges were also laid in the past 12 months, most of them drug related.
"By far the drug trade, in particular cocaine in both powder and rock form, is the driving factor behind...the criminality," says Bryden.
Guns are the other main issue. Bryden refused to even guess the number of firearms on the streets of the capital. But he did say that 60% of them are smuggled into the country, mostly from the United States. They're hoping to shrink that number.
"In 2014, two arrested members involving gang activities were deported out of Canada," says police chief Charles Bordeleau. "That's why it's important we continue to work with CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) on that work."
That work has also led to the police seizing four guns since the beginning of January.
"Four more crime guns off the street that may or may not have gone bang in another incident in our city," says Bryden. "To me, that's four individual successes in of itself."
The Ottawa gang strategy was also under intense scrutiny. While projects Clamity and Karma have helped with enforcement, some believe other aspects need work.
"We have not succeeded with the gang strategy as it is to do it within existing budgets," says Nancy Worsfold, executive director of Crime Prevention Ottawa.
Worsfold admits there are ex-gang members in Ottawa who have turned their lives around. She wouldn't put a dollar figure on it, but Worsfold says more money is needed for a practical exit strategy for current gang members.
"In my opinion, (it) would require new money in the system. I believe that the mayor is looking for some within the current city budget."
Worsfold adds that the city needs to continue to support a full range of services that would help affected families.
Meanwhile, Bryden says the police will continue to work with the partners of the gang strategy moving forward. Enforcement will also continue to be an emphasis, as will working with the courts.