Shootings, violent crime on the rise in Montreal, annual report shows
A new report shows just how bad the problem of gun crime was in Montreal last year, but city officials maintain the metropolis is still a safe place to live.
The Montreal Police Annual Report for 2021, released Wednesday, shows there were 144 shootings across the city last year, or an average of one shooting every 2.5 days.
In 2020, there were 71 shootings recorded.
In a year where homicides were particularly high, the use of a gun was overwhelmingly predominant: there were 19 homicide victims who died by gunfire in 2021, compared to six victims the year before.
Homicides were at their highest level in the past five years in Montreal, jumping 44 per cent with 36 killings recorded. In 2020, police responded to 25 homicides. Homicides were up 39.5 per cent from 2016.
The report noted that half of all homicides and attempted murders in Montreal last year involved the use of a firearm.
"The issue of armed violence remains a central concern of the SPVM," the report said.
"The volume of calls from the public on this topic increased by 30 per cent between 2020 and 2021. Beyond an actual increase in these types of incidents, there is evidence that the public is also more likely to contact the SPVM when they hear gunshots, due to the outreach work of SPVM teams in the field."
SEXUAL ASSAULTS UP 32 PER CENT
Overall, crimes against people are up by 17.3 per cent from 2016. Attempted murder, assaults, and sexual assaults were all up when comparing 2021 to 2020, but also when comparing the five-year average. Since 2016, attempted murders were up 27.1 per cent, while assaults were up 22.6 per cent.
The biggest increase in the last five years was for sexual assaults, which rose by 32.2 per cent since 2016.
"The media coverage of court cases, the filing of commission reports, including 'Rebâtir la confiance,' and greater general public awareness have definitely contributed to an increase in reporting to the police," the report reads.
Reacting to the annual report, Alain Vaillancourt, a member of the mayor's executive committee responsible for public security, said numbers in the report did not come as a shock.
"We know that there's an increase in armed violence in all cities in North America so what we see in the report, for us, is not necessarily a surprise," he said, adding that police are being proactive in taking guns off the street.
"We can see some of the results. We had two weeks ago a huge, historic [seizure] for amphetamines and guns. Last week, we had another [seizure] for [guns]. These things take time."
Vaillancourt pointed to recent efforts by the police to act on gun violence, including the increase of the police budget and the creation of mixed teams, such as the anti-gun squad known as the Équipe de lutte au trafic d’armes à feu (ELTA).
The squad was able to seize 628 guns last year, which is 116 fewer than 2020. The number of guns turned in voluntarily remained mostly the same compared to last year, with 331 guns surrendered. Overall, the SPVM recovered a total of 959 guns, down from 1,065 from 2020.
Municipal opposition critic Abdelhaq Sari disagreed with the assertion from Vaillancourt that Montreal is safe, but when pressed by reporters, he did not full address the question. He said the Valerie Plante administration is not taking enough action when it comes to tackling gun crime.
"When I heard Mr. Vaillaincourt, I don't know if we read the same report. All indicators show an increase of criminality," he told reporters Tuesday, before the official release of the report.
377 VACANT OFFICER POSITIONS
Sari added that he's concerned about a depleted police service with officers leaving the force due to retirement or burnouts.
There are 6,313 sworn officers at the SPVM and 377 vacant officer positions in the SPVM, according to the report.
Former Montreal police commander Andre Durocher said new initiatives like ELTA, which was created in February 202, take time to achieve results. And when officers are shuffled to different teams, it can take work away from other departments.
"We've always had a good response for emergency calls where life is being threatened, that's something that I think that Montrealers should be proud of," Durocher said.
"But whenever you create something else, if you announce a new squad, well, you're sort of robbing Paul to pay Pete because you're not getting extra resources."
Laval police, too, reported an increase in gun crime and violent crime in their annual report, which was also released Wednesday.