The Montreal police department is launching a special squad devoted to tackling gun violence after a spate of shootings in the city.
Insp. André Durocher, who confirmed the news on Thursday, said the team will comprise up to 20 to 30 uniformed officers and investigators from the organized crime, major crime and drug squads.
“The message we want to put forward is anyone who intends to use firearms in the coming weeks to commit crimes, they are not welcome in Montreal,” said Durocher. “We are going to put efforts to end this.”
The creation of the unit comes on the heels of a string of brazen shootings in Montreal in the past week.
Police are still searching for a suspect after the driver of a delivery van was shot in broad daylight in Saint-Leonard on Monday. Investigators say the other motorist fled the scene.
A 26-year-old man was killed after he was gunned down inside a hotel room early Wednesday morning. It was the fourth incident of gun violence on the police department’s territory in 36 hours.
“It’s a punctual situation so it’s a punctual response,” said Durocher.
The acts of violence and open gunfire among bystanders have created a feeling of unease among residents, according to Durocher. He said it’s important for Montrealers to know that their city is safe and police are working to address the spate of shootings in recent days.
“These events have to stop,” he said.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said she supports the initiative, but she is also asking the public not to be alarmed. She said the number of homicides in the territory is stable, but authorities need to investigate the recent series of shootings.
“Montreal is still a safe city, though we need to have a special look at why this is happening in such a short period of time,” she said.
Aside from tackling shootings, Durocher explained the team will also be responsible for getting guns off the streets. Some areas will also see an increased presence of police officers, he added.
“We’re prioritizing this,” he said.
In November, Quebec provincial police and Montreal police announced they were launching a permanent team amid a series of organized crime-related murders in the province. Investigators are looking at the Mafia and the Hells Angels.
— With files from Global News’ Phil Carpenter and The Canadian Press