Violent crime continues to rise in Ottawa

Violent crime in Ottawa has risen significantly for the second year in a row.

According to the Ottawa Police Service's latest annual report, issued  Wednesday, there was a 12 per cent increase in the overall crime rate and an eight per cent jump in violent crime in 2018.

Violent crime includes robbery, assault and sexual assault.

This is the second year in a row that crime rates have increased. In 2017, the overall rate increased three per cent and the violent crime rate jumped 20 per cent from the previous year.

No one from the Ottawa Police Service was available for an interview Wednesday, but in the report interim Chief Steve Bell suggests the public's confidence in the force could help explain the jump.

"Our statistics show that Ottawa residents are amongst the most likely in Canada to report crimes to police. It means you trust us to help you when you need it most. We take that responsibility very seriously, and will continue, with your help, to resolve those issues impacting our communities," Bell said.

Bell also noted the homicide rate fell last year, and said other indicators are moving in the right direction.

"We are seeing a 30 per cent decrease in the number of shootings, and I believe it's because we have implemented solid plans to address this type of criminality. They will be expanded," Bell said.

Matthew Kupfer/CBC

Need for 'political will'

Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof said years of reduced or restrained budgets are taking their toll on policing.

"We are, we estimate, 150 officers behind," he said. 

The city is adding 30 new officers to the force this year, but Skof said that isn't enough. 

"By the end of all the increases that they have scheduled over a three-or-four-year period, we will be back to 2012 levels," he said.

Skof said the force's new deployment model means officers aren't as connected to individual communities — where they're better able to fight crime proactively — than they used to be.

He also took aim at provincial legislation that brought in rules restricting police carding, saying it's reduced the ability of officers to collect information. 

Municipalities should encourage the province to review that legislation, Skof said.

"There will need to be a very significant political will for municipalities to have that discussion with the provincial government," he said.