East Orleans has most sex assault complaints in Ottawa, but police don't know why
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Sexual assaults are reported more often in Orleans, but police don’t know why and officers on the front lines don’t appear to have the resources to find out.
Vanier might get a bad rap for safety issues, but the Ottawa area consistently seeing the highest number of sexual offences reported to police is in east Orleans, Metro has learned.
Police zone 510, in the east of Orleans, has averaged 20 incident calls per year between 2002 and 2013.
This is one of Metro’s findings after analyzing 12 years of police calls-for-service data for sexual offences, obtained through access to information.
The data included the offence type, date, time and location of more than 5,800 incidents reported to police. It provides a snapshot, though by no means a complete representation, of where and when sexual offences are happening in Ottawa.
“We don’t have the full picture,” said Angela McDade, a staff sergeant in the sexual assault and child abuse section.
When presented with the Orleans numbers, McDade was surprised. “I don’t know what the cause is,” she said.
McDade said her department doesn’t have the resources to analyze incident data, and instead relies on the crime analysis unit to alert them to any possible trends.
Unlike the nature of reporting homicides, McDade said it will always be a struggle for sexual assault victims to report to police, leaving the data incomplete.
“It’s more surprising for someone to report than not to report,” said Julie Lalonde, a support worker at Ottawa’s sexual assault support centre, and director of Ottawa chapter of Hollaback!, an organization working to address street harassment.
There are many factors, including income status and relationship to the perpetrator, that will impact a person's decision to report, Lalonde said.
Unsurprisingly, more late-night incidents happened on the weekend, and more daytime incidents during the work week.
The 400-number block of Elgin Street saw 74 incidents reported over the 12 years, the most of any one-block location. This could possibly be attributed to in-person reporting at the main police station, 474 Elgin.
Other places with a high number of calls include the 1000-block of Carling Avenue, where the Ottawa Hospital is located, the 0-block of Rideau Street, at the foot of the ByWard Market, and 1100-block of Colonel By Drive, Carleton’s campus.
While the data does not indicate if the location of the incident was outside or indoors, addressing community safety issues is important for reducing sexual assaults, said Elsy David, program director of the Women's Initiatives For Safer Environments.
“What is the lighting like? If I was alone here could I see and be seen, hear and be heard?” David said.
WISE regularly conducts safety audits of locations brought forward by members of the community. Incidents can happen anywhere, David said.
“There have been issues east to west and north to south,” she said.
This story is based on calls-for-service incident data, which are calls to 911 initially identified and filed by a dispatcher as a sexual offence. The categorization of each incident may change after a police follow-up. Likewise, calls that are initially filed as an “assault” may change to “sexual assault” categorization upon further investigation.
The interactive map shows the total number of reported incidents by police zone over 12 years, not on a per capita basis. Some zones with a higher number of incidents may also have denser populations. The number of incidents in each zone varies year to year.
For a deeper dive into the data, Metro is making the original dataset provided by Ottawa Police available for download here.