Winners lead in fighting crime and enhancing safety

Jerry Pool spends just two hours a night sleeping.

Anymore than that and he might miss something.

“We have a lot of problems with drugs, prostitution, a lot of unwanted people that come into the building,” he said.

As head of his building’s neighbourhood watch, Pool patrols the halls of Lepage Manor in the city’s west end.

Along with eight other winners, Pool was recognized at the second annual Community Safety Awards Monday night for making a difference in fighting crime and increasing safety in Ottawa.

The 62-year-old said about 15 years ago, the building was converted from an all-seniors residence, and that’s when the trouble began.

So seven days a week he volunteers to monitor the floors.

“I don’t take holidays,” he said. “I used to have a set time but then I decided to change it so that no one knows when I’ll be out there.”

The program helps frightened seniors report threatening activity, as well as spot trespassers in the building.

As Monday’s awards ceremony proves from the west side to Lowertown, all kinds of citizens are making a difference.

Lisa and Chris Grinham received the Community Safety Volunteer award for spearheading change in their Lowertown neighbourhood, where in 2006 they began picking up dirty needles and founded an organization called Safer Ottawa.

“The more we looked, the more we found … some days I picked up 100 needles in one day,” said Grinham.

In their spare time, the couple cleaned up needles and lobbied the city, Ottawa police, and the province to take action.

“Once you start carting around 27 gallons of discarded needles and crack pipes, people start listening to you,” he said.

They gathered more than 6,000 discarded needles alone, and the Grinham’s efforts have changed the city’s integrated needle response system.

“If I find a needle, I don’t pick it up anymore. I call 311 and wait to see how long it will take,” Grinham said.

While the neighbourhood watch and needle pickup are fairly new initiatives, another winner has been working toward change for decades.

Don Wadel, executive director at the John Howard Society of Ottawa, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Wadel joined the organization — which provides services to offenders and ex-offenders — in 1986 and has been at the helm for 25 years.

“Some people see us as supporters of offenders. We’re here to reduce risk to the community,” he said.

Ten years ago, the organization began providing housing to parolees and homeless ex-offenders.

With 85 staffers and 10 locations, Wadel said his work is still creative and full of new initiatives.

“Crime is interesting, period,” he said.

Wadel said the sense of teamwork between the other award winners is something to be proud of.

“We’re all working together with different groups of people and the community benefits.”

Other winners were: Armand Kayolo (Overbrook Forbes Community Resource Centre); Joshua Zanin (Action Sandy Hill); Sgt. Jean Lamothe (Ottawa Police Service); Craig Calder (By-law & Regulatory Services); Walter Piovesan, Ottawa Carleton District Board of Education.

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