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While the official opening of the new police hub at the Rideau Centre has been delayed from the originally planned June 3 start-up date, scores of Lowertown residents fear for their safety.

On Monday night, the Ottawa Police Service Board heard from a steady stream of concerned citizens living in or around the Byward Market.

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The daily issues involve noise associated with around-the-clock drug dealing and a growing homeless epidemic in what one speaker described as a “neglected jewel” of the city.

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Residents told the OPS board about an increase in defecation and urination around homes and a rise in vulgar comments as some folks on the street have become more aggressive in begging for cash.

One concerned grandmother was in tears as she catalogued a series of street issues and talked about advising her visiting grandchildren not to touch discarded crack pipes and needles.

Every one of the speakers said the situation has become worse since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recognizing that police budgets have been stretched to the limit amid the city’s affordable housing crisis, there was mild hope that the new police hub could make a difference.

However, the Neighbourhood Operations Centre (NOC), situated on the first level of the Rideau Centre facing Rideau Street, won’t be ready next week.

Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs told reporters on Monday that supply chain issues are the reason for the delay.

The NOC is a significant element of the Police Service’s Community Outreach Response and Enforcement Strategy, but Stubbs says that the plans for an increased police presence in and around the Byward Market have already started.

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