Four Montrealers out of 10 feel less safe walking around the city than they did 10 years ago, a study commissioned by the Montreal police union and obtained exclusively by TC Media indicates.
The poll, carried out by Léger Marketing, was an attempt to find out just how safe Montrealers feel in their city, and in the neighbourhoods they call home. In total, about 37 per cent of respondents consider the city less safe than it used to be.
In the run-up leading to the 2013 municipal election period, the Montreal Police Brotherhood would like to bring the question of public security to the forefront of candidates' priorities, considering how little the question is discussed, a spokesman said – given that 31 per cent of respondents said it should be a priority.
"We hear candidates saying that one of the major challenges for Montreal is the retention of oung families on Montreal Island and the quality of life, but we never hear them say that one of the principal elements of quality of life is public security," said Montreal Police Brotherhood spokesman Martin Desrochers. Union president Yves Francoeur said a reported drop in crime statistics has more to do with a shift in reporting methods than a drop in criminality.
"It used to be, that when someone broke windows on 10 different cars, it was reported as 10 incidents – one report per victim," he said. "Now, it's treated as just one incident. Francoeur also panned the practice of excluding bicycle thefts and Internet-fraud crimes from local crime statistics. "Citizens are saying the situation is not quite as rosy as they say it is," he added.
That's why the city needs a larger police presence "and not tougher penalities," as the Harper government has pushed for in recent years. What dissuades people from committing crimes is not the time they may spend in prison, but rather, the possibility of getting caught, Francoeur said.
Montrealers are still somewhat nervous about the presence of street gangs and criminal groups. To that end, a full 72 per cent of respondents answered that those types of groups posed the biggest threat to Montreal public security
That percentage grew to 84 per cent for residents of Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles, 79 per cent for Rosemont, St. Leonard and Anjou, and 77 per cent for residents of Mercier—Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Francoeur said many street gangs have begun migrating from Montreal North to more eastern locales on the island.
"There have likely been a number of efforts that have been undertaken (to solve the problem) but that hasn't managed to reassure the population," said Léger Marketing vice-president Richard Messier.
Francoeur is worried about the Montreal Police Service's ongoing ability to maintain the number of raids that have been carried out as part of Project Eclipse, which targeted street gangs, now that a federal-government subsidy funding the project was not renewed. Forty-four police officers were working on Project Eclipse, which had an annual budget of $10 million.
"We know the police service is clearly under-funded in Montreal," said the union president. Currently, the Montreal Police Service's budget is about $700 million annually.
The survey was carried out between June 13 and July 1 and canvassed 3,264 respondents across Montreal via telephone and Internet. The margin for error is +/- 1.72 per cent, with a 95-per-cent confidence rate. It is the first survey of its kind in Québec.