A new law from the City of Ottawa will give local police the power to set up a Crime-Proofing Unit, which would help officers crack down on violent crime, including sexual assault and child pornography.
The unit, which is designed to work with the police force’s sex offender unit, is set to come into effect on July 1.
The city says it is a pilot project, but it has been the subject of widespread criticism from advocates who say it will be used to increase the police response to sexual assault, and could increase the number of victims.
Ottawa police chief Marc Soucy said the new unit would work with other units across the province and in Canada.
He said the city was also considering using the unit for other offences, such as graffiti and mischief, which are often more difficult to catch.
The new unit will be led by Detective Sergeant Michael Wigley.
He will be in charge of coordinating all other units, including the sex offender task force.
Soucy called the new initiative “an important first step” and said it was “a critical step in addressing a number of issues that exist.”
The city has already had some success using the Crime-Prevention Unit, created in 2003, to crack down against sexual assault.
Under the new legislation, the city’s new Crime-proofing Unit will be tasked with identifying and investigating crimes that are violent, such the stabbing of a woman on the sidewalk, the assault of a man in a park or the stabbing and assault of children.
But critics say the new approach is too limited, and the units already have a very limited role.
They say the units will only investigate crimes committed by people who pose a risk to public safety.
In a news release, the group said the crime-proof unit would be “a more comprehensive approach that focuses on the root causes of crime rather than the individuals involved.”