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Crime in the Montreal metro | Emergency calls have more than doubled since the pandemic



The special constables of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) are at the forefront of witnessing the increase in crime in the underground corridors of the metropolis. Over the past two years, their numbers have decreased, while the number of emergency calls has more than doubled.

“Before the pandemic, we were making around 20,000 calls a year,” said Kevin Grenier, president of the STM-CSN Constables and Peace Officers Fraternity, in an interview. Then, last year, the number jumped to 42,000. In 2023, STM agents have already responded to 11,000 emergency calls, he reports.

The special constables and peace officers who patrol the Montreal metro are trained partly at the École nationale de police du Québec and partly by the STM. They have an apprenticeship very similar to that of the police officers in the province. However, they are not initiated to the handling of firearms and do a less thorough examination of the Criminal Code, explains Mr. Grenier.

Currently, 150 constables travel the 71 kilometers and 68 stations of the STM’s underground network. Last year, 17 of them left the ranks, without being replaced. Those who remain are well placed to testify to the evolution in the frequentation of places.

” [Les personnes] who cause the most problems in the metro are the criminals, the drug dealers, says Mr. Grenier straight away. They are the ones who took up space [pendant la pandémie] and trying to take more and more. They show no signs of wanting to leave the premises. They have appropriated them and it is difficult to dislodge them. »

“They tell us: we are at home here,” adds Mr. Grenier. They almost invite us to leave! »

Effects on metro users

This increase in use of the metro by narcotics sellers is accompanied by an increase in altercations and violence, as reported The Press at the beginning of February1.

It is essentially the perpetrators of criminal offenses and drug users frequenting the premises who are the target of manifestations of aggression, assures Mr. Grenier.

In turn, however, public transit users can pay the price. This is particularly the case when there is the use of pepper spray or any other irritant agent, the use of which has exploded since 2022, we recently reported in these pages. Again on Monday evening, service on the yellow line and part of the orange and green lines were interrupted2.

The use of any irritant gas in the subway triggers an emergency evacuation protocol, paralyzing entire lines and often requiring the evacuation of multiple stations.

According to Mr. Grenier, pepper spray is often brandished as a weapon during altercations “between criminals, or between consumers and their sellers”.

When there is cayenne pepper [gaz poivré]it is not used for the purpose of creating a service stop [du métro]. But as it is found in our facilities, it creates the shutdown.

Kevin Grenier, President of the Brotherhood of Constables and Peace Officers STM-CSN

Pepper sprays are usually purchased over-the-counter, Grenier notes (like dog or bear spray). But they are used as a weapon, just like a knife, a screwdriver or a kitchen utensil, which contravenes the Criminal Code.

Focus on prevention

Kevin Grenier is keen to distinguish between “criminals” and vulnerable people who hang out in the subway. “These really need help, even if yes, they have consumption problems, and sometimes behavior. »

One of the roles of STM agents is to carry out prevention, in particular through the Équipe métro d’intervention et de concertation (EMIC).

“Every day, we have dedicated teams for people experiencing homelessness,” he explains. [Avec EMIC]we work on the front line, we provide food, clothes if needed. [L’EMIC] can even help people find an apartment. »

When the number of emergency calls jumps, it is prevention that takes a hit, he underlines. One of the solutions would be to rely on the recruitment and retention of new STM constables. “Around 200 [agents]that would be a reasonable number,” he said.

A greater presence of the authorities would, he said, reduce “crimes of opportunity”, such as theft, harassment and the sale of drugs.

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