Montreal police (SPVM) officials held a press conference Thursday morning debriefing journalists on what they described as a dramatic spike in gun violence.
High-ranking members of the criminal investigations and organized crime units outlined statistics surrounding gun violence in the city so far this year.
As of Aug. 31, the SPVM had recorded 77 firearms being discharged, surpassing the total amount for each of the last two years.
The death toll is also on the rise.
So far in 2021, there have been 23 homicides on the Montreal territory.
Police say the figure is concerning and is highly likely to pass the 25 that were recorded in both 2019 and 2020.
More guns on the street
Francis Renaud, commander in Montreal’s organized crime unit, says firearms have been flooding into the city through several entry points.
Renaud says the American land border and Indigenous reserves are just some of the many ways weapons slip through.
Renaud also highlighted the infiltration of artisanal guns, also known as ‘ghost guns,’ on Montreal streets.
The polymer-based weapons are bought in pieces of thick, high-density plastic.
Buyers acquire the chamber and trigger legally over the internet and construct the fully functioning, untraceable pistol in the comfort of their own home.
Insp. David Shane says weapons are also being modified to make pistols semiautomatic.
Attachments can also be added to make a handgun fully automatic paired with an extended clip that can discharge 30 rounds with the simple pull of the trigger, Shane said.
With an increase in demand, gun prices have shot up in the last four years, quadrupling in cost. A handgun now costs $5,000 on the black market.
“Our teams on the ground have never gathered or seized as many weapons as this in the history of the SPVM,” Renaud said.
A total of 654 firearms have been seized in 2021, as of Aug. 31.
The new face of crime
The SPVM said the new face of crime in the city involves young teens.
Officials described a recent arrest of a 15-year-old in connection with a shooting event that occurred in Saint-Leonard.
Police say the teen had a Glock pistol and more than $1,800 in cash on his person.
Police described the gangs behind the gun violence as spontaneous and lacking authority and structure.
Officials stepped away from identifying groups with the Crips or the Bloods like they have done in the past. They say now the lines have blurred and allegiances are made between new splinter groups.
While Renaud says there are a number of hot spots throughout the island of Montreal when it comes to gun violence, the hottest area is not the street but on social media.
Facebook and Instagram are now described as the “battlegrounds and the streets being the stage.”
Police say shooting incidents are often used and seen online and in rap music videos promoting or even flaunting acts of violence. Masked, gang-affiliated members can be seen flashing Glock pistols.
“One week they’re a victim, the next week they are the suspect,” Shane said.
The violence is often retaliatory and is meant to be a statement to help inflate local celebrity with online videos, officials said.
“It’s a constant back-and-forth fight for dominance and notoriety,” Renaud said.
Crime scene investigations
The multiple and mounting investigations have become complex, Shane said, as gang members refuse to comment.
“We can’t do a proper report or further an investigation when witnesses clam up,” Shane said.
Police say they are moving forward with the investigations and won’t be backing down but the force is calling on the public for help.
“We need their eyes and their ears,” Shane said.