Montreal police launch new 'ARRET' unit to fight gun violence

·2 min read
The SPVM will launch its new gun violence squad this fall. (Jean-Claude Taliana/CBC - image credit)
The SPVM will launch its new gun violence squad this fall. (Jean-Claude Taliana/CBC - image credit)

Montreal police are set to launch a new unit of 68 officers dedicated to fighting violent crime amid rising concerns over shootings in the city this fall.

The ARRET squad will include constables and those with a range of expertise in criminal investigations and intelligence gathering. The officers are pausing their usual duties to join the unit.

The French acronym stands for action, répression, résolution, engagement and terrain, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal said. That translates roughly to action, clampdown, resolution, commitment and groundwork. Its goal is to disrupt the activities of criminal groups, gather intelligence, and intervene on the ground.

"The ARRET project, of indefinite duration, will allow the SPVM to intensify its presence in the field from now on," the service said in a press release Tuesday.

Pascal Richard, assistant chief inspector with the corporate services department, didn't tell Radio-Canada how much the new unit will cost, but said no new money will be injected for new hires or equipment.

"We will not be using outside resources for the moment, but as we say, 'Everything is on the table.' We are not saying that, in the possible future, it could not happen," he said.

The ARRET squad will also work with the organized crime unit, ECLIPSE. More officers will be added to the ECLIPSE squad until the ARRET project hits the ground.

According to the latest SPVM activity report, violent crime increased by about 17 per cent over the past five years in Montreal. Reports of attempted murder also jumped by 27 per cent over the same period.

Over the last few months, shootings — often in residential neighbourhoods or public places — have been shaking Montrealers' sense of safety and their trust in police.

Public security professor Ted Rutland from Concordia University says investing in police alone is not enough to fight violence in the city.

"It's kind of dizzying how many gun squads they've introduced in the last two and a half years," he said.

"What difference is this squad going to make? What's it doing differently than the existing squads and the squads that were created and dissolved in the past?"

He says resources are also needed in community organizations and institutional programs that have been underfunded.

More street social workers, job programs and mental health support for shooting victims to reduce the desire for vengeance are all ways to tackle violence before it happens, said Rutland.

"For us to explain the increase in violence among younger people – teenagers and people in their early 20s – that's where we need to look" he said.

"We need to rethink this starting assumption that the police alone or increased investment in the police can solve gun violence."