Montreal's gunshot hot spots: Data shows which police stations most active combatting gun crime
The fatal shooting spree that resulted in four deaths in Montreal this week, triple shootings that killed two at the end of July, and downtown shooting that injured a police officer on July 14 suggest that the metropolis's gun violence problem is getting worse.
Statistics, however, tell a different story.
Montreal police statistics show that firearms-related homicides and attempted homicides, and shots fired reports look on pace to match 2021.
In 2021, police reported 19 homicides, 49 attempted homicides and 137 firearms discharges. From January to June 2022, the numbers in all three categories are close to half - seven, 27 and 68, respectively.
The following interactive maps give a breakdown of which police posts reported each crime.
View the full-screen version of this interactive map by Esri Canada.
The data shows some posts such as those in Saint-Leonard, Montreal North and Ahuntsic have been far less violent this year than in 2021, while Saint-Laurent and Cote-des-Neiges have increased.
The Ville-Marie East and Riviere-des-Prairies posts have been consistently busy with gun-related crimes.
The Montreal police (SPVM) said comparing an entire year to the first half of the next is not useful.
"It is impossible to compare a six-month period with a full year to infer that there has been little change in crime," police said in an email.
The Montreal Police Annual Report released in June showed 2021 was more violent than the year prior, but when compared to pre-pandemic years, the numbers were down.
For example, total firearms offences went from 251 in 2020 to 376 in 2021, but the four years prior were as follows: 2019, 344; 2018, 436; 2017, 501 and 2016, 513.
In 2021, 19 of the 36 homicides were the result of gunshots, and firearms were used in 49 of the 139 attempted homicides. The homicide numbers include a drive-by shooting that left three people dead in Riviere-des-Prairies in December.
The data police provided was only for crimes against persons involving firearms and does not include weapons possession, trafficking, or other firearms charges.
Concordia University professor Ted Rutland studies and teaches urban planning and security and was not surprised that gun crimes have not changed even after the Quebec government invested $90 million to combat alleged rising gun violence.
"I wrote a bunch of articles last year when they were making these investments, and I said, there's no chance that this is going to make any difference," said Rutland. "None of the studies say that increasing police resources decreases gun violence, there's a bunch of things that do decrease gun violence, and we're not doing those things."
Benoit Richard is part of the multi-department CENTAURE task force focused on combating weapons trafficking. He said to tackle gun crime, law enforcement must tackle ownership, trafficking and importing guns. He said partnering with departments from Montreal to Akwesasne to the U.S. and more is helping combat ownership, trafficking and importing guns.
"Working together is probably the best reason and the best way we can fight the gun violence in Montreal and all over Quebec," said Richard.
He cites the dozens of news releases from CENTAURE, reporting weapons seizures, arrests and charges.
"We've been working hard, and it's only been a year," he said. "We needed to be to put up the task force first. Now, they're ongoing, and everything's going well. And hopefully, we'll get some good stories to tell in the near future."
For Richard and others in the task force, an issue they see is a normalization of gun violence in everyday situations.
"You see gun violence in music videos, you see gun violence as a means to gain importance in social media, you see gun violence almost everywhere," he said. "Of course, one of the things we have to do is to inform people so that they know that gun violence is not okay."
Rutland said that investing in police task forces and other law enforcement areas sells well politically but to little real effect.
"Just finding the bad guys and punishing them isn't a coherent, public safety strategy," he said. "The police are really good at catching someone who's committed a crime and sending them to prison, but when we're talking about prevention, then they actually played very little role at all."
To create a safer city, Rutland suggests investing in summer employment programs for marginalized youth, hiring more street workers to build relationships with those youth and provide support for them to improve their lives and mediate conflicts before they become violent.
"And to do mental health outreach in hospitals, so that people who are victims of gun violence, or people who have seen one of their friends or loved ones gunned down in front of them, get the support that they need to process that trauma, which is just a caring thing to do," he said. "It also decreases the chance that they're going to want to retaliate, which is a kind of understandable response to being shot."