Gang resurgence feared with dismantling of Eclipse Group
Published Sunday, January 6, 2013 4:31PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 7, 2013 8:34PM EST
MONTREAL - Concern has greeted news of the impending dismantling of the Eclipse Group, a squad of 46-police officers focused on fighting gangs in Montreal.
The group will be axed in March, as the provincial government has decided to cut its funding.
One bar owner said shutting down the squad could endanger clients and staff, as well as bottom lines.
“If the customers don’t feel secure because street gangs are coming in, ordinary people will not come,” said Peter Sergakis of the Union of Bar Owners of Quebec.
Sergakis says officers with the Eclipse Group visit his establishments almost weekly to keep gang members out. He said that since the squad was created in 2008, there have been fewer violent incidents.
“They check all the time. They come into the bars to see if (gang members) are there,” said Sergakis. “If you don’t have them, you're going to have the other people taking over, I’d rather have the police than the other people.”
Sergakis has written to federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in hopes of persuading him to reverse the decision.
One criminologist agrees that the squad should be maintained.
“We have a lot of problems now in the criminal underworld,” said Maria Mourani, who is also a Bloc Quebecois MP.
Mourani has written two books on Montreal street gangs and said that the $37 million that the government has poured into Eclipse has prevented crime.
“I know a lot of gang members hate Eclipse because they're very efficient, they know them, they know where they chill,” said Mourani.
EDITED TO ADD:
Upon viewing the article, Julie Carmichael, communications director from the Office of the Public Safety Minister sent CTV Montreal this comment regarding anti-gang squads:
Our Government is committed to cracking down on gangs in Montreal, and across the country. We were pleased to make a significant one-time investment to provinces and territories to help them bolster their police forces and ensure they had the tools they need to crack down on gun, gang, and drug crime. We will continue to crack down on gangs and organized crime across the country through tough measures, like our new sentences for gun crimes associated with organized crime, including drive-by shootings.
Since 2006, our Government has introduced and made law nearly 20 bills to address organized crime in various ways. This included making all murders involving organized crime automatically first degree murder, eliminating house arrest for organized crime-related offences and imposing mandatory minimum sentences for production and trafficking of drugs, the lifeline of organized crime.