Montreal police creates new squad in the fight against rising gun crime

Montreal police are using $7 million in funds from the Quebec government to create a new anti-gun squad that they say will be operational later this year to combat a rise in gun crime on the island.

Following a year where there’s been a marked increase in shootings, Montreal police say they’re learning more and more about people who obtain guns illegally.

“For them, it means power. It means to be able to impose their will on somebody else on the territory,” said Insp. David Shane.

Police say that’s driving up the value of black-market handguns, now going for about $5,000 to buy one on the street. The price tag has quadrupled in the last five years.

“What we’re told is that they use their illegal activities to raise that money and invest it to acquire firearms. It’s as simple as that,” Shane said, adding that criminals are using social media to post warnings to their rivals.

“They don’t have to search for them in the streets, they just have to put it out on social media.”

In response, police are launching a new squad to investigate gun crime called Équipes multisectorielles dédiées aux armes à feu, or EMAF. It’s supposed to be up and running in late November and will concentrate mainly on the northeast and the southwest regions of the city.

“They’ll be called to events where there are instances where there are gunshots where there’s attempted murders. They will work when citizens call Info-crime and say this person is walking with a gun in their belt,” Shane said.

Police wouldn’t give specific details of how the squad will work.

However, a Concordia University professor said it will be similar to the anti-gun squad at the Toronto Police Service, which he said has been controversial.

“The primary aspects of that model in Toronto have been at the centre of the storm around carding or racial profiling,” said Ted Rutland, who teaches urban security and policing at Concordia.

“It’s really difficult to actually pinpoint someone who’s about to commit a gun crime, so sending in more resources just means arresting a whole bunch of people who fit a certain image.”

Montreal police insist their goal is to be closer to the community in the hope people will trust them when there are shootings.

Right now, they say, too many people including, victims of gun crimes, are scared of the police.

“They don’t want to be seen as an informant or somebody that cooperates with the police force,” said Shane.

Montreal is already on track to surpass the number of gun crimes involving a firearm, according to data provided to CTV News by the SPVM. By the end of August, there have been 39 gun-related crimes. By this time in 2020, there were 38, and 33 in 2019.

The data covers all types crimes in which a firearm was present, whether real or fake and whether it was used or not.

Police won’t say how many officers will be working in the new EMAF team or whether they’ll be taken away from other squads.

There is already a shortage of about 300 officers on the force.

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