Social networks have become the “new battleground” in the fight against armed violence, said Francis Renaud, head of the organized crime section at the Montreal Police Department (SPVM).
“I am often asked what is the hottest sector in Montreal, the most dangerous. My answer is quite simple: the hottest sector is currently found on social networks, ”said the police officer during an information session on the fight against firearms which was held Thursday morning at the SPVM headquarters.
“We won’t hide it, social networks are the new battleground for criminalized street gangs,” he added. This is what we show off, this is what we try to gain notoriety. “
Because the possession and use of firearms are not only “trivialized”, but “glorified” by criminals who adhere to this “culture of violence”, said his colleague David Bertrand, chief inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department . “People want to pose and be seen with their guns,” he added.
Social networks are notably used by members of criminal gangs to prove their allegiance, threaten their rivals and recruit new members. “We are going to tell each other the real deal, we see people appearing to demonstrate their” exploits “, maintained Chief Inspector Bertrand. The phenomenon even has a name: “net banging” or gang networking.
More and more violent
For example, Chief Inspector Bertrand returned to an attempted murder that occurred this year in the north of the city. A man, targeted by shots in the lobby of an apartment building, had fled to take cover after being hit by a projectile. “We say to ourselves: he will never come back to the lobby. But no ! [Quelques secondes plus tard] he comes back to the lobby with his cell phone and he films the windows which are broken and he tries to film his injury. After that, we’ll call 911 and try to find help. But the first thing the individual did was film himself to make threats and a “story” and explain that he got away with it. “
Another man, a victim of an attempted murder in his vehicle, stopped on the run to film the bullet holes in the windshield to post the video on social networks.
“There is no longer any subtlety, [ils sont] more and more violent in [leurs] ways of doing things on social networks, ”added his colleague in organized crime, Francis Renaud. And this, in order to “stand out” and obtain a “celebrity” in order to seek new members.
The phenomenon of gang networking has amplified with the pandemic, but Montreal would not have escaped it, since it was already in motion in Toronto and other major American cities long before the pandemic, police officers responded to. journalists.
According to the SPVM, Montreal is two years behind what is happening in Toronto, which allows them to analyze the methods of their Ontario colleagues and to work upstream. The case is judged “Priority” for Montreal police officers and all other police forces in Quebec.
Impulsive and unpredictable
Beyond social networks, several other elements have changed in recent years and police officers must adapt their investigative methods. Thus, they find that the victims of attempted murders by firearms hardly collaborate with the police, preferring to settle their cases among themselves with bloody retorts. “The victims of today are often the suspects of tomorrow,” said Chief Inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department, David Bertrand.
However, if there is no complainant, it is difficult to lay charges for attempted murder. To sidestep this problem, police officers will increasingly lay charges of discharging firearms. The number of events compiled by the SPVM in the “unloading a firearm” category went from 41, for the year 2019, to 77 as of August 31, 2021, which illustrates this trend.
Police officers working in the field also note a change in the behavior of criminal gangs: “recklessness”. A “feeling of impunity”. They are no longer afraid of going to jail, because it gives them “credibility”.
There is now talk of “impulsive and unpredictable crime”, noted the police.
“A few years ago, when criminals pulled out their guns, they knew what they were going to do with it: they were going to pass a message or commit some crime. Right now people are pulling out the guns and [improvisent] depending on how the evening unfolds, ”explained Mr. Bertrand.
It should also be noted that the price of firearms has practically quadrupled over the past 5 years, going from a few hundred dollars to nearly $ 5,000 to $ 6,000. “At that price, we are not going to get rid of the weapon after the crime”, we will rather resell it, explained the police officers.
The SPVM relies heavily on partnerships with community “partners” and prevention, thereby hoping to put a stop to armed violence. “We will not become the next Toronto,” said David Bertrand confidently.