FEATURE: Deadbolts and deadbeats

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It’s a common misconception that burglaries in this city occur exclusively at nighttime, when the windows are shut tight, the doors are barred and security systems are active. In fact, recently, home invasions in Montreal during the daytime hours have become less of an anomaly, especially in the suburbs.

Who would even think twice about a 20-year-old girl asking her new, 23-year-old neighbour to borrow a cup of sugar in the mid-afternoon? In Brossard, a suburb about 15 kilometers southwest of Montreal, such an event took place in the mid-afternoon and afterward, four men barged in, tied the resident up, and proceeded to ransack the place. It is no wonder why Montreal’s suburban residents are on edge.

Indeed, the prevalence of daytime home-invasions does not appear to be subsiding: This summer, for example, a disturbing number of people were badly injured and even killed during armed burglaries. The Montreal Gazette reported that one victim, a local Laval artist, was shot to death during a home invasion while his wife and child were held hostage.

Cars, electronics, cash and jewelry; these are the key items burglars are looking for, and, thankfully, most students do not possess them in large quantities. While most recent break-ins have not occurred in downtown Montreal, it is naive to assume that robberies are uncommon in the heart of the city. Two years ago, an out-of-province couple staying in a downtown montreal hotel trusted their belongings to what they thought was a hotel bellhop. Instead, this man ended up stealing the couple’s suitcases and vanity packs, which were valued at over $10,000. These events occurred dangerously close to the McGill campus in broad daylight.

In fact, McGill campus is not completely immune to these crimes. In 2004, a man walked into the New Residence Hall and stole two laptop computers from a student’s bedroom. Nevertheless, most of Quebec’s home offenses still tend to occur in the suburbs. According to Statistics Canada, the target destinations for crime include Verdun, Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Montréal-Nord, Rosemount-La-Petite-Patrie and Villeray-St-Michel-Parc-Extension.

Alarming facts about Montreal and criminal activity:

– The West End Gang is one of Canada’s most influential criminal groups. Active since the early 1900s, its rise to notoriety began in the 1960s, when it were known simply as the “Irish gang” and members’ criminal activities were focused in the west side of Montreal. Most of the gang’s earnings derived from truck hijacking, home invasions, kidnapping and armed robbery. -The West End Gang is now affiliated with the mafia Cosa Nostra and Hells Angels. The three merged to form an organization called the “Consortium.”

– Montreal Police estimate that the West End Gang currently consists of approximately 125 to 150 members. The group does not operate with a Mafia-like hierarchy. It is loosely connected, with captains heading different factions. The group often collaborates with the Montreal Mafia and the Hells Angels in enormous drug shipments and remains one of the most powerful and profitable criminal organizations in the country.

– The highest provincial crime rates continue to be seen in the West. Saskatchewan recorded the highest overall rate, followed by British Columbia and Manitoba. Rates are lowest in Ontario and Quebec.

-The overall rate of break-ins has fallen seven per cent since 1991 and is continuing to decline.