Downtown councillor demands tighter security at 'high need' building

Highrise at 415 MacLaren St. scene of homicide, violent attack

Judy Trinh · CBC News · Posted: Jun 17, 2017 5:30 AM ET | Last Updated: June 17, 2017

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An Ottawa city councillor is demanding around-the-clock security following two violent incidents at a notorious Ottawa Community Housing building in Centretown.

Last month, police laid charges after 19-year-old Ahmad Afrah plummeted 16 floors to his death from an apartment balcony at 415 MacLaren St.. In January, a woman was beaten and choked inside her apartment in the same buidling.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney says the highrise between Bank and Kent streets is the most "high need" social housing building in her ward.


Juliette Cousineau says she was attacked by two men inside her apartment in January. (Jean Delisle/CBC)"More security is a part of the solution, but what we need is supports in that building around the clock and certainly well past 5 p.m.," said McKenney.

The building has a full-time mental health worker who works five days a week, but McKenney said the problems usually arise after the worker leaves.

Violent attack

Juliette Cousineau has lived in the building for 11 years.

The 55-year-old woman was the target of a violent crime in January when two men showed up at her door at 10:30 p.m. looking for her ex-boyfriend, who did not live there.

Cousineau said she was terrorized inside her apartment for more than two hours by the men, who wanted her to settle her former partner's $1,500 drug debt.

Cousineau said the men drank an entire bottle of liquor and smoked crack cocaine, then stabbed her in the leg with a paring knife and began to beat her.

"They straddled me and started to choke me while slapping me in the head. That's when they took the liquor bottle and broke it over my head … then they grabbed me by the hair and they dragged me into the bathroom."

Cousineau said one assailant who was more than six feet tall and about 250 pounds wrapped the shower curtain around her face and neck and began to choke her while the other attacker searched her bedroom.

"I'll never forget the anger or the evil," said Cousineau who still has scars from the 17 staples doctors used to close her head wound.

Still can't take elevator

Cousineau said the only reason she was able to escape her attackers was because they were drunk and high.

Ottawa Police arrested one suspect in Edmonton, but the second man remains at large.

Six months after the attack Cousineau is still unable to take the building's elevator on her own. She believes Ottawa Community Housing has to do more to protect its residents beyond putting in surveillance cameras in the lobby and elevators.


Coun. Catherine McKenney says 415 MacLaren is the most 'high need' social housing building in her ward.Cousineau has pleaded with McKenney to station a security guard inside the building.

Since the May homicide of Ahmad Afrah, safety officers from the city's social housing agency have stepped up patrols in the building, McKenney said.

But she understands that falls short of what residents like Cousineau say they need to feel safe in their own homes.

McKenney plans to ask OCH to apply for more funding from the province to extend the building's mental health worker's hours, or to pay for a security guard to protect residents until midnight.

But she realizes resources are tight.

OCH currently operates 900 buildings across Ottawa with an annual budget of $3.7 million, and just 28 security guards.

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