Montreal police say they are ramping up their investigations into gun violence and organized crime in the city, after five people were shot in the Rivière-des-Prairies neighbourhood Monday evening.
Insp. David Shane, spokesperson for Montreal police (SPVM), said a few dozen shots were fired from outside the building at men inside and near the apartment on Perras Boulevard, near 54th avenue, at around 7 p.m. Monday.
In all five men were shot — three died in hospital overnight and the other two are in stable condition, Shane said.
"We share the worries and concerns of all citizens who are affected by this incident, which is unprecedented in Montreal," Shane told reporters Tuesday. "It's unacceptable and there could have been collateral damage."
All five victims were known to police and Shane says one of them had a firearm on him at the time of the incident.
This was also not the first time this apartment building was targeted by gunfire — the building was also fired on at on the night of June 5, Shane said.
"The SPVM is firmly engaged in the fight against gun violence and treats these crimes as a priority," he added.
Shane said it's too early to say what was behind this shooting, but says the vast majority of gun-related incidents in the city this year have been attributed to conflicts between groups.
The SPVM will also be getting more resources from provincial police in the coming weeks to be able to investigate issues of gun violence and organized crime more thoroughly, he said.
Those increased resources will include access to more specialized tools and staff.
"But in all these efforts, what needs to be said is that the key to success is the co-operation of all citizens. The police alone cannot succeed," Shane said. "One of the things that is missing, that we need more of, is citizens speaking up."
Shane is asking that anyone who knows someone in possession of an illegal firearm, or who may be involved in criminal activity, to call the SPVM's anonymous tip line, Infocrime.
Shane says officers will also be increasing their patrols in the area.
"My last message today is for the criminals shooting their firearms in the streets of Montreal.... Enough is enough," said Shane. "You will have the entire force of the SPVM on your back."
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350 firearms seized since January, borough mayor says
According to Caroline Bourgeois, borough mayor and the executive committee member responsible for public security, Montreal police have seized some 350 firearms so far this year.
In February, Montreal created a new police unit, dubbed ELTA, to crack down on firearms trafficking.
"All efforts are being put in place by the SPVM and the city of Montreal to ensure that our officers have the tools they need to intervene," said Bourgeois.
"Nothing pains me more than when people tell me they want to leave Montreal, they want to leave their neighbourhoods because they're scared to let their children play in the park."
Earlier this summer, the province announced it would invest $5 million dollars in ELTA over the next two years.
On Tuesday, Shane said the unit has now grown to include about 23 officers and he hopes to get the team to 40 by next spring.
Premier, mayor call for peace
The shooting in Rivière-des-Prairies renewed concerns from political leaders about recent gun violence in different neighbourhoods across the city.
"That shootings are taking place here is troubling and worrisome," Premier François Legault said Tuesday on Twitter. "My condolences go to the loved ones of the victims. We will protect Montrealers and Quebecers."
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante also took to Twitter Tuesday morning with a similar message.
"Like the entire Montreal community, I am shocked by the shooting in RDP yesterday. Armed violence has to stop," Plante wrote. "The safety of Montrealers is an unconditional priority."