Police to beef up presence in Montreal's Village as merchants, visitors raise safety concerns
The city says it's increasing police presence around Place Émilie-Gamelin and the nearby Gay Village amid growing complaints about a decline in safety and quality of life in the historic neighbourhood.
There was another homicide in The Village last weekend in a rooming house above a bar. For local merchants, the neighbourhood is just getting too dangerous.
Drug deals and crack cocaine consumption are viewed as the biggest threat to security, which is why Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says she's beefed-up budgets for patrolling the area.
The mayor says more social workers are on the street, assisting people with mental health and homelessness issues. But those who live and work in the Village say they have yet to see any improvements
"No, it's not safe," said Roberto Izzi, an Uber Driver, about the neighbourhood.
"I worked nights before, now I changed it for the day because the nights, I'm scared because it's too dangerous."
The village has a long-established population of transients who say they're generally left alone by police as long as they behave. But even they feel unsafe.
"They're never there when we need them, one man told CTV News.
The Village has suffered a lot because of the pandemic. Many of its bars and restaurants are closed for good and even fast-food chains have left. The local business association says it's cyclical, and businesses will return, but homelessness, mental illness and addiction make it hard to attract businesses and especially tourists.
"Time will tell but time is precious here in the Village because summer is the most important time of the year for our merchants. They depend on night time, pedestrianization, the terrasses. So, we're hoping to have a nice summer," said Gabrielle Rondy, executive director of the Village merchants association.
"So, if these issues take time to see some improvements — if the time it takes is the whole summer — well, it's going to be a disaster for some of our merchants."
The mayor and merchants agree that policing alone won't bring back life in the Village, and will require more efforts in treating addiction and mental health.