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Volunteers

John Reeder, Volunteer

Upon his retirement from more than 30 years as a high school teacher, John Reeder immediately began his second career - volunteering in his community. Although he has been involved in many different volunteer roles, John’s passion for community safety and crime prevention shone through with one initiative in particular.

In June 2007, John was accepted as a volunteer at the Ottawa Police Somerset Community Police Centre (CPC). Since then, he has volunteered at the centre once a week for four hours at a time, greeting people who come to the centre to learn about crime prevention initiatives or make police-related inquires. John immediately showed great interest in the philosophy of community policing and wanted to help Somerset CPC reach out to the community to promote education and engagement on crime prevention and safety issues.

His idea was to create a website for the Somerset CPC. Its aim was to demonstrate to people the strength of partnership initiatives between community and police, and how far-reaching the footprint of a community police centre really is. In John’s own words, he was also trying to “showcase the people behind the uniforms.”

The website was introduced in January 2008 and has grown from 300 to more than 4,000 hits per month. It has had a tremendous impact on how the Somerset Community Police Centre has been able to deliver crime prevention education and information to the public, now 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is a wealth of resources, photos and visuals, and an invitation to community members to get to know the police officers working to reduce crime and create safer neighbourhoods.

The website’s success is largely due to John’s ability to find relevant community safety information and package it in a way that generates public interest. This resource not only lets people know what is going on in their community, but it also delivers the strong message that ordinary people can be empowered to make a difference in their own neighbourhoods. It gives them access to important resources, builds a stronger sense of identification with community police officers, and shows them they are not alone in their concerns or their desire to make their community safer.

To keep the community well informed on important safety matters as well as to raise awareness for the website, John works under the guidance of Constable Nathan Hoedeman, to create a monthly newsletter for the Somerset CPC. The newsletter is distributed regularly to more than 200 members of the community who are actively involved in crime prevention and community safety issues. With this initiative as well, John has managed to grasp the essence of how to make crime prevention relevant to his audience, always managing to find the right way to present an issue, so that readership continues to grow and so does his community’s engagement with crime prevention.

Chris and Lisa Grinham, Volunteers

What would you do if your community was littered with used needles, condoms and crack pipes? What would you do if one of the children on your street was stuck with a discarded needle? How would you feel watching a little girl suffer the devastating effects of taking anti-HIV and Hepatitis-C drugs after a needle prick?  

For Chris and Lisa Grinham of Lowertown, it was all too much to bear. In 2006, they founded Safer Ottawa after discovering little was being done to address the runaway drug addiction, petty crime and discarded needles in their community. They lobbied the City, police and the province to do something about it. They fought hard to address public safety issues they felt were going largely unchecked. They managed to get support, securing the tools they needed to safely collect and discard of used needles and other drug paraphernalia, including puncture-resistant Kevlar gloves and bio-hazard collection tubs.

Every night after work and every single weekend, Chris and Lisa scoured the streets of Lowertown, dedicating 35 hours each week to identify, photograph, catalogue and post all the drug paraphernalia they located online. As Chris tells it, “the more we found, the more we became alarmed at what we saw.” Some days, they found as many as 120 discarded needles, at times close to schools and daycares. They were shocked that the City was handing out needles without picking them up.  They went to City Hall with buckets full of drug paraphernalia to make the point that the City’s approach was not acceptable.

They got the attention of Mayor Larry O’Brien, Councillors Georges Bédard, Shad Quadri, Bob Monette and Eli El-Chantiry. They found an ally in Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Isra Levy. With the support of Police Chief Vern White, they developed a sophisticated method of tracking drug use in the city, and the problems that go with it.

Chris and Lisa also pushed for public health education and harm-reduction awareness campaigns targeting addicts at needle exchange sites. Their efforts inspired the City’s integrated needle response system. Today, their Needle Hunter patrols find fewer discarded needles, and the City responds immediately to calls for disposal.

Chris and Lisa have been forever changed by their decision to create a safer community for their son, their friends, and complete strangers. Today, they’re working on other community causes. They continue to advocate for treatment programs that will keep people off drugs.

As for their reward? It’s being able to walk down the street and know that the children in their community are safe. And if their story inspires others to take action on community safety issues, they’re all for it. In their minds, this recognition is not about them—it’s about what’s possible when you decide not to look the other way, when you tackle a problem head-on, and you mobilize the resources and support you need to make a difference.