Despite the explosion in the number of shootings in its streets, Montreal remains a safe city, and maintains the person in charge of public security, Alain Vilancourt.
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“If we compare it to other cities in North America, then Montreal remains safe,” he said, acknowledging, however, that the current situation “remains worrisome.[e]”.
Mr. Vilancourt responded to the annual report of the Montreal City Police Department (SPVM). For 2021, 144 firearm shootings were recorded on the island, which is one every two and a half days. A meteoric rise when there were only 71 such events in 2020. Homicides also increased by 40%.
“For us, this report is not really a surprise. We know there has been an increase in gun violence. Especially since we have been working on the file for a year. Efforts are underway,” Mr. Vilancourt said.
In this regard, he noted, the city has increased funding for community organizations to $20 million, in addition to increasing the police budget and forming the Firearms Control Team (ELTA). It also ensures that SPVM has the resources to do its job.
“Sometimes it’s long, and we don’t see the work on the ground, but it’s done on a daily basis,” Mr. Vilancourt added.
SPVM will formally submit its report on Wednesday to the city’s Public Security Committee.
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“Have we read the same report?” asked Abdelhak Sari, a public security spokesman for the official opposition. “We have clearly seen that all the indicators are red,” he was annoyed.
Far from feeling safe, he thinks the situation is worrying. Especially since the municipal administration, in his opinion, “is not aware of the problem.”
He reiterates the demand of his party, which would like the city to hire more police officers to reach the hiring cap currently permitted by law.
“When I say police, it could be neighborhood police, community police. That is the staffing we need. They don’t exist,” Mr. Sari said.
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Concordia University professor who specializes in public security, Ted Rutland, was not surprised by the results of the SPVM’s annual report, although he admitted that “any form of violence is worrisome.”
The strongest trends we see in the report are the ones we’ve already seen in the news and across North America. It gives us numbers, but it’s nothing surprising.”
However, he says, more police will not be the solution to the violence, while they are intervening primarily after the act has been committed, rather than at the source. It also notes that Montreal already has the highest ratio of police officers per inhabitant in Canada.
He concluded, “We have paid too much attention to the police as a solution to acts of violence, and not enough attention to other forms of action and intervention.”
Instead, he believes Montreal should learn from methods that have worked in other North American cities, for example by making summer jobs easier for marginalized youth and increasing funding for street workers.
The city says they doubled it, but it’s a very small budget, and the money isn’t well distributed either. He noted that most of the money goes to good community programs, but they are not designed to reduce violence.
Although she shares a note that the data is not surprising, Maria Morani, a criminologist and columnist for the Journal de Montreal, believes the city should fill in its police force.
“There are not many police officers of diversity or women. It could be an opportunity to bridge that deficit to achieve greater representation.”
However, she points out, it is also necessary to allocate funding for prevention as well as in information.
In this regard, she noted that work on the Web is important, while some no longer hesitate to appear there with weapons. “What the police need to catch is to remove the weapons before committing the crime,” she said.