Bradley and Waller: Ottawa needs to invest in proven crime prevention techniques

Some believe that more police equals less violence, but the facts do not support this view.


Ottawa is in a municipal election campaign where citizens want more security. This is not surprising after many years of growing police budgets no significant reductions in shootings or violent victimization.

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the evidence It is clear that the most effective and cheapest way to reduce violence is to stop it before it happens. This means that the next mayor and city council must adopt and implement a plan to significantly reduce violence by using research and lessons from success elsewhere, ultimately reducing the need for expensive emergency services.


While some voters believe that more police equals less violence, the facts do not support this view. In fact, if more police and prisons made cities safer, US cities would be the safest in the world, which they are not.

In 2019, the Ontario Police Services Act was amended to require Ottawa and all municipalities in Ontario to develop a community safety plan. The law requires cities to identify and act on factors that contribute to “crime, victimization, addiction, drug overdose and suicide.” But the Ottawa plan omits any focus on street violence or prior prevention of sexual and gender-based violence.

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Furthermore, the Ottawa plan does not benefit from the good news that violence can be reduced significantly and affordably. This is based on evidence from randomized control trials, task forces and national commissions. Evidence is widely available from agencies such as the US Department of Justice and the World Health Organization but has not yet been used in Ottawa.

Ottawa should invest in actions that are proven to stop the violence before it happens. These include:

• recruitment and training social workers and mentors reach young men before they engage in violence;

• recruit social workers to join surgeons in hospital emergency ensure that victims of violence do not return;

• help young people with problem solving skills and emotional regulation to control anger and toxic masculinity that too often leads to injury to others;

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• Provide job training and employment opportunities in areas where violence originates.

One in seven women who graduate from post-secondary school do so with the traumatic experience of being a victim of sexual violence. These tragic incidents affect their lives and safety in many ways. Schools and cities can do more to stop this sexual violence by following evidence-based recommendations. For example, Our Campus, Our Security requires successful participation in workshops that have been shown to change social norms about consent and enable people to take action such as passers-by

Putting solutions into practice requires new leadership and skills. Unfortunately, Ontario did little more than produce a brochure to help cities plan. Fortunately, international guidelines show how to tailor investments locally, and cities like Glasgow, Scotland, showed us the way by reducing violence by 50 percent for a few years. First on the list for the City of Ottawa should be hiring officials who are already knowledgeable and training others on smart planning and how to use the science of prevention.

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Our estimates are that Ottawa will need $15 million a year to get on the path to reducing violence by 50 percent. Ontario has not yet stepped forward. The federal government can help, but only with pilot funding, resulting in projects dying out in a few years just as social workers are reaching their full potential. Therefore, Ottawa politicians will need to work with cities like Toronto, which are already committed to prevention, to get changes from the federal and provincial governments.

More of the same for Ottawa will only get more expensive emergency responses. Being smart about crime will reduce the number of victims and sensational headlines and make Ottawa a peaceful place to live, study and succeed.

Jeffrey Bradley is a Ph.D. candidate in Legal Studies at Carleton University. Dr Irvin Waller is professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa and author of Science and Secrets of Ending Violent Crime.

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