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Business owners raise concerns about security in ByWard Market

A ByWard Market business owner is raising concerns about safety and security in the popular Ottawa tourist area, after his business was broken into twice in two nights this week.

“The boutique was vandalized because…the view, the products are visible,” John Achinte Rmor, owner of John Rmor Shoes on Sussex Drive, told CTV Morning Live Wednesday morning.

Rmor says the suspect broke into his business Monday morning and then again on Tuesday morning.

“One time he break the glass, the next time he breaks the wood we put from the previous night. The second night he did very heavy. Lucky for us, police catch him,” Rmor said.

John Rmor designer shoes and leather products is located on Sussex Drive at Murray Street. The owner says he had a lot of hope for the ByWard Market when he decided to open the boutique in the area.

“It is a little frustration; the police work hard, I know,” Rmor said.

“The ByWard Market area is getting a little bit spicy every day.”

On Tuesday, business owners and merchants in the ByWard Market held a meeting with officials from the city of Ottawa and Ottawa Police Service to discuss the issues in the area.  Some raised concerns about a lack of safety and security in the market, and called on the city to do more to address drug use and homelessness in the area.

“It was a good, first conversation,” Phil Emond, the owner of Gordon Harrison Canadian Landscape Gallery, told CTV News Ottawa.

“What we were asking and wanted was actual concrete, immediate plans to remedy at least safety and drugs and homelessness issues in the market; we didn’t get that today. We know that there are conversations going on, there will be some planning, there’s budgetary issues but today, we didn’t hear anything concrete.”

The Ottawa Police Service 2022 Crime Report showed Rideau-Vanier had the second-highest crime rate in the city last year.

“People were vocal about the issues, but also did suggest solutions,” Const. Sebastien Lemay said following the meeting.

“Police play a part in those solutions and the evolution that I’ve seen in my years of doing this job is an understanding from all the partners that everybody has to do their part.”

In June, Council approved a new plan for the ByWard Market that includes dissolving the ByWard Market BIA and replacing it with a new ByWard Market District Authority. One of the mandates of the new authority is undertaking initiatives to improve public safety.

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Stephanie Plante, who represents the ByWard Market, says the future of the ByWard Market is in everyone’s interest.

“My priority is to listen as to what the concerns are and make sure that we bring those concerns to City Hall,” Plante said.

“We heard everything from parking, street animation, safety and security, and these are not new issues, the reality is we have a different opportunity now.”

Some merchants raised concerns that Mayor Mark Sutcliffe did not attend the meeting.

Rmor says he put a lot of hope in the ByWard Market by opening his boutique in the area.

“I was thinking this is the perfect clientele for us and that location specifically, I always wanted that location,” Rmor said.

“After the pandemic, it is a little bit of a struggle. I noticed the increase of the events happened frequently.”

Lemay says police have a “big part” to play in the security in the market, but everyone at the meeting recognizes it’s a “shared effort.”

However, some business owners say there is too much focus on the perceived negatives in the ByWard Market, and not enough talk about the positives.

“When I look around every single day, I see happy, smiling faces. I see people, I see movies being filmed, I see families of all generations down here enjoying the beauty of the ByWard Market,” Deek Labelle, general manager of the Chateau Lafayette, said.

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