While homicides were up in 2018, the general crime rate declined in Montreal in 2018, according to new data released by the SPVM.

The police force’s annual report, which was presented at City Hall on Tuesday, showed that homicides were at a five-year high in 2018, with 32. That’s up from 24 the previous year. Violent crime as a whole were up, with a 19.1 per cent increase in attempted murders and 4.8 and 2.8 per cent increases in assaults and sexual assaults, respectively.

SPVM chief Sylvain Caron said the increase was at least partly due to organized crime didn't believe the uptick in homicides was indicative of a larger trend.

Andre Durocher, head of communications for the SPVM, noted that homicides in recent years have been at historic lows.

"I remember being in Montreal when there were more than 80 murders a year and it just went down, down, down," he said. "Every once in a while, statistically, it can happen, so we'll have to wait to see if it's a tendency or if it's just incidental."

There was overall a reduction of 4.7 per cent in total infractions from 2017 to 2018, with the most notable declines being in breaking and enterings, firearm offences and violations of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Acts.

According to the report, the roads got safer last year. In 2018 17,799 infractions based on violations of the Highway Safety Code and Criminal Code were reported, down from 18,970 the year before.

When it came to ticketable infractions, the SPVM handed out:

  • 332,633 tickets for moving violations
  • 87,839 for speeding
  • 204,054 for parking infractions

Another 963,138 parking tickets were handed out by parking officers.

The number of drunk driving infractions held steady with 1,908 reports, roughly equal to the 1,927 in 2017.

The report also included data on the ethnic makeup of the force. While the SPVM and Montreal fire department have both announced  efforts to diversify their forces, the data shows that of the SPVM’s 4,557 officers, only 351 are visible minorities, 190 are ethnic minorities and 24 are First Nations.

Mixed results on roads

According to the data Montreal's roads got safer for cyclists but deadlier for pedestrians.

The number of cyclist deaths was reduced by one over the previous year, with four fatal incidents in 2018. The number of serious injuries fell from 32 to 20 and minor injuries were reduced from 657 to 587.

However, the number of pedestrians killed increased by almost 17 per cent, with 18 deaths. Serious injuries went from 78 to 87, while the number of minor injuries remained virtually the same, with 1,064.

Alex Norris, the city councillor in charge of the public safety portfolio, said a disproportionate number of people struck by vehicles are elderly.

"In an aging society, that's a risk that's only going to become more accute and all the more reason to pursue the direction we've taken, which is to make our intersections safer," he said. "There's a vast series of measures, whether it's protected pedestrian lights, curb extensions, narrowed roadways on local streets, speed bumps."

Taser use controversial

While officers used their firearms just four times in 2018, resulting in one death, tazers were used 383 times, almost double from the year before. 

Norris said there are still questions as to tazers' use.

"The use of tazers is controversial and there's different points of view on whether they're a useful alternative to the sidearm or whether they're a tool for repression," he said. "As an administration, we're continuing our reflection on this issue."

Durocher said that most of the times tazers are used, they aren't actually fired.

"Let's keep in mind that in the force continuum, if you don't have the tazer, you may use a baton or you may use the firearm, so it is good news in that sense," he said. "Don't forget, every time it's used, it's part of the analysis to see if the use was called for or not."