What 3 years of detailed crime data tells us about how safe a city Montreal is

With two to three people dying each month in Montreal as a result of violent crime, your chance of becoming a homicide victim is extremely low. The odds of your home being broken into or graffitied are much higher.

Risk of becoming a homicide victim is extremely low, compared to odds of your home being burgled or graffitied

Two to three people a month are victims of homicide on the island of Montreal. That makes Montreal 'a very safe city,' says Université de Montréal criminologist Rémi Boivin. (Radio-Canada)

Every month on the island of Montreal, two to three people die as a result of a violent crime. That's a one in one million chance of anyone on the island becoming a homicide victim.

"It's important to understand that Montreal is a very safe city compared to other North American cities," said Rémi Boivin, a Université de Montréal criminologist.

"Even in the most dangerous areas, it's a very safe city, for everyone, at all times."

Over the past two years, Montreal police has been publishing detailed data on certain crimes committed on the island.

CBC News and Radio-Canada have compiled the data, which is updated every three months, and turned it into easy-to-read maps and charts.

They, in turn, will be continuously updated — a public information tool indicating where vigilance is needed.

Despite the city's relative security, some areas do tend to have a higher incidence of crime than others.

Here's what the data shows.

Car thefts: West Island hot spots

This interactive shows the concentration of vehicle thefts in Montreal, over time, from 2015 to 2017.

Vehicles get robbed all over the island, but the data for the last three years shows there are three hot spots: hotel parking lots along Côte de Liesse Road, at Trudeau International Airport and at the Fairview shopping centre in Pointe-Claire.

Since 2015, more than 650 cars were reported stolen from these areas.

The high-risk lots are places where cars can be left for hours, even days at a time, said Montreal police Insp. André Durocher.

"It's simple. Car thieves go where there are lots of cars," he said.

This is the only crime type that has been getting worse over time. November 2017 saw the highest number of stolen cars in a month since 2015, with 400 vehicles reported stolen.

Downtown trouble spot for vehicle break-ins

This animated map shows the concentration of thefts from vehicles over time, from 2015 to 2017.

When thieves snatch valuables from inside of cars, they do it mostly downtown and especially, in Old Montreal.

These are what police call crimes of opportunity.

"A thief might see something in the car and take it. That's why we tell people not to leave anything valuable inside," Durocher said.

But other hot spots are peppered throughout the island, including the Fairview mall in Pointe-Claire, Galeries des Sources in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, and the shopping malls around Highway 40 and Lacordaire Boulevard in St-Léonard.

All these places have expansive parking lots around big-box stores, where cars are often parked for long stretches of time.

Breaking and entering: the bane of dense neighbourhoods

This animated map shows the concentration of break-ins over time, from 2015 to 2017.

The most common type of crime on the island of Montreal are home and business break-ins. About 800 are reported each month, on average.

Considering the number of homes on the island, less than a tenth of one per cent are at risk.

Most break-ins are concentrated in the downtown, Plateau Mont-Royal and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve boroughs.

Among the neighbourhoods most at risk are the Latin Quarter and Milton Park. Not surprisingly, these are some of the most densely populated areas in the city.

"There are thieves who go around neighbourhoods, seeing if doors were left unlocked," Durocher said.

He believes many of the thieves responsible for break-ins have drug addictions and are looking for something easy to steal and sell.

"These thieves will favour whatever is easier. So they'll look for open doors or windows left open in the summer," Durocher said.

Boivin said basic prevention makes the job harder for thieves, but good relations with neighbours also help.

Businesses can take extra measures such as installing fences, controlling access and improving lighting, he said.

Downtown a haven for mischief makers

This map shows cumulative data for three years of mischief incidents, from 2015 to 2017. There wasn't enough variability over those years to see a change. (Brooke Schreiber / CBC)

It may come as no surprise that downtown Montreal is the main target of vandals, especially along Ste-Catherine Street, from the Gay Village in the east to Concordia University's Sir George William campus in the west.

The northern half of the St-Hubert Plaza shopping strip in Rosemont also stands out. It registered more instances of mischief than neighbouring areas.

Armed robberies a stain on the Village

This map shows cumulative data for three years of armed robberies, from 2015 to 2017. There wasn't enough variability over those years to see a change. (Brooke Schreiber / CBC)

Armed robberies are rare, but not in the Gay Village and Latin Quarter neighbourhoods. These have seen a combined 300 robberies since 2015 — many times higher than most places on the island.

Durocher said most armed robberies happen in commerces, but people on the street can also be targets.

"The Village is a big pedestrian zone all summer long. But there are also a lot of people leaving bars at night who could be easy victims."


Roberto Rocha


Roberto Rocha is a data journalist with CBC/Radio-Canada.


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