Street gang crime a growing problem in Montreal: Police
Overall crime rates are dropping in Montreal, but street-gang related violence continues to rise, and police need more resources to fight the problem, the force says.
One in three murders and one in two attempted murders reported in Montreal last year were linked to street gangs, which are thriving in the region despite concerted police efforts, the force reported on Thursday during the presentation of its annual review of organized crime.
"There [were] no innocent victims," said Mario Plante, who heads the specialized investigations unit. "All of the victims being involved in the major crimes were people involved in street gang criminal activities."
Police are concerned about nascent Latino street gangs, who they say are laying roots in the city.
"In this process, with our colleagues from the federal services, we arrested nine persons [last year]" Plante said. "Five of them were already deported, and four are in the process of being deported."
Street gangs are also increasingly armed, with police seizing 170 weapons in 2007.
Fighting street gang crime is the number one priority of the Montreal police service, but the force can't do much without greater financial support from the province, said Claude Dauphin, the city's executive committee member in charge of public security.
This week, Montreal city council adopted a resolution asking Quebec for $40 million over three years to fight street gang crime.
Dauphin said he and the police hope the province will recognize the need, just as Ontario did when it recently granted Toronto $50 million for street gang crime prevention.
Montreal is "still a safe city, but if we want to maintain the fact that it is really a safe city, we need help from the other levels of government," he said.
In 2007, overall crime rates dropped by 6 per cent in Montreal, reflecting a longer term trend. Overall crime rates have dropped by 23 per cent since 1997, according to police statistics.