Montreal seeing uptick in violent crimes, including homicides, use of firearms: police report

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The Montreal police service (SPVM) released its annual report Tuesday, revealing homicides, gun violence and sexual assaults are up across the island.   (Kolya H. Guilbault/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The Montreal police service (SPVM) released its annual report Tuesday, revealing homicides, gun violence and sexual assaults are up across the island. (Kolya H. Guilbault/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Montrealers who may have sensed a recent surge in violence on the island now have the data to prove it.

The Montreal police service (SPVM) released its annual report Tuesday, which outlined a notable increase in violent crimes, including homicides, discharging of firearms, domestic violence, assaults and sexual assaults in the city in 2021.

Homicides increased by 44 per cent last year compared to the year before,with more firearms involved. That's higher than the average increase of homicides (39.5 per cent) over the last five years.

The number of attempted murders rose 27.1 per cent when compared with the five-year average. However, attempted murders involving a firearm decreased slightly from 2020 to 2021.

Crimes involving the presence or use of a firearm increased by 15.3 percent in 2021 compared to 2020. According to the report, half of the homicides and attempted murders committed on SPVM territory last year involved firearms.

"Homicides and attempted murders have increased significantly and the problem of gun violence is certainly contributing to this picture," the report reads.

Crimes involving firearms

The number of events where a firearm was discharged more than doubled in 2021 compared to the previous year, jumping from 71 to 144.

The SPVM estimates this phenomenon could be explained by a marked increase in the number of calls from residents concerning gun shots (up 30 per cent in 2021 compared to the previous year), which stems from outreach work that makes people more inclined to call, the service said.

'It's not a surprise,' says city's head of public security

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Montreal's executive committee member in charge of public security, Coun. Alain Vaillancourt, said the report's findings were expected.

"It's not a surprise," he said of the increase in armed violence across the island, "but the city remains safe."

Vaillancourt said crime, particularly gun violence, is rising across the country, and he said the city is taking a multi-pronged approach to fighting it.

He said investing in community groups, funding police operations and seizing illegal guns are happening behind the scenes.

"A lot of stuff is being done that we don't necessarily see, and we're seeing results for it," he said.

Vaillancourt said while the city would like to see a complete ban of handguns from the federal government, Ottawa's newly introduced gun-control bill is a "step in the right direction."

Surge in domestic violence, sexual assault

The SPVM's report also found a stark increase in the rate of conjugal violence.

Last week, the SPVM told CBC News that there were more than 16,000 calls to police linked to conjugal violence in 2021, and that violence was linked to five of the city's 36 homicides.

That represents 13.5 per cent of last year's homicides in the city.

In Quebec, 26 women were murdered in 2021, the vast majority of them as a result of conjugal violence.

Meanwhile, the number of sexual assault cases also increased by 31 per cent in 2021 from the previous year, and by 32.2 per cent when compared with the five-year average.

Sexual assaults in the city

The report says media coverage of sexual assault cases brought to court and increased public awareness are some factors that have contributed to the increase in reporting similar cases to police.

Vehicle thefts on the rise

While the number of arsons, break and enters and other offences to property were down last year, vehicle thefts exploded across the city over the past few years, increasing 43.9 per cent over the five-year average.

In 2021 alone, thefts were up 36 per cent from the previous year — a worrisome problem to Quebec and Canadian police forces, according to the report.

"Technological advances, the sophistication of the tools used as well as the scarcity of vehicles and parts due to the pandemic explain, in part, this significant increase," the report reads.

The SPVM will present the findings of its annual report to elected officials responsible for the city's public security and to the general population on Wednesday.

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