Final closure after four relocations and promises of more police visibility
Avleen K Mokha
Parc-Extension News has learned that Park Extension’s police station, PDQ 33, will close this week. Although SPVM, Montreal’s city police, has not made any public announcements, a member of the Station 33 revealed that everyone in the Park Extension station will relocate up north. The closure of Station 33 comes as residents in neighbouring NDG protest the closure of their station.
Currently, Montreal police has made no public comments about why Park Extension’s station is closing so soon.
In fact, Station 33 employees only found out they were closing this past Thursday, June 18, according to our anonymous source.
Moreover, Park Extension councillor Mary Deros says SPVM did not consult her about closing her district’s station.
Station 33 officers may continue working from the Police North Division headquarters on Cremazie and Saint-Hubert. Alternatively, a merger with Villeray’s station PDQ 31 may happen.
Most densely populated territory
Station 33 has operated as the closest point of contact for Park Extension residents for civic issues. The station serves a population of 31,000 residents.
When compared to other stations in Montreal, Station 33 is responsible for the most densely populated territory, despite covering the smallest geographical area.
Relocations, lack of consultations
Station 33 has moved locations four times since it opened nearly thirty years ago. The station first opened on Beaumont avenue. Over the years, the station moved from Beaumont to Parc avenue, and then to another building on Parc avenue.
The most recent move happened just over ten years ago, when the station went back to Beaumont avenue.
The relocation took place quickly during the summer. In fact, then borough Mayor Anie Samson said she was not consulted prior to the relocation.
According to Deros, who voted for the move years ago, said the station had to move due to a rent hike.
“The owner of the building increased their rental fee, so the police station needed to move,” Deros said. “But at least they were still in Park Extension!”
Promises of increased police visibility
Commanders at the police station have previously promised to boost police visibility in Park Extension.
Former station commander André-Guy Lamothe said he wanted more police patrolling on foot and monitoring the area on bikes.
“People have to know that we’re there,” Lamothe told Parc-Extension News in 2007.
Many residents do not feel Lamothe’s promises have been following through, nor do they feel the neighbourhood is safe enough.
A recent survey showed Park Extension residents felt the district had more civic problems than the rest of Montreal.
In a SPVM survey from 2014, over half of the respondents felt the neighbourhood had significant problems with drugs and incivility.
Merging with Station 31?
Some speculate that Station 33 will merge with Station 31, the police station for Villeray. Deros says there was indeed some talk eight years ago about moving to a building large enough to accommodate both Stations 31 and 33.
“But again, this has never gone beyond talk,” she told Parc-Extension News in April.
“And nothing concrete has been announced. Not even in pre-planning of anything. But there was talk this at least eight years ago, although nothing has come up again.”
NDG residents with a similar story
“Crises like COVID-19 heighten the need for police services in our neighbourhoods.”
Rumours for a merger with Station 31 come from the announced closure of the Notre-Dame-de-Grace police station.
City police have announced that the NDG Station 11 will close by the end of 2020. According to SPVM, the goal is to integrate Station 11 with Côte Saint-Luc’s Station 9.
In response, a resounding storm of protest has broken out. Residents and officials in western Montreal have mobilized to protest against the closure.
NDG residents worry the closure will reduce community service. Furthermore, Côte-des-Neiges–NDG borough Mayor Sue Montgomery disagrees with the decision to merge stations. The Mayors of Côte Saint-Luc and Hampstead have also opposed the plan publicly.
At the same time, elected officials don’t have the power to stop a station from shutting down. Nevertheless, NDG’s officials joined community groups in showing strong opposition — a political move which forced the police to hold a virtual information meeting last month.
However, the virtual meeting left many residents dissatisfied. Citizens only had six days to review the merger plan prior to the meeting and the police only accepted questions in writing.
Some politicians the SPVM’s conduct has been woefully inadequate. Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand reacted strongly in a statement that was co-signed by Montgomery and councillor Lionel Perez.
“Crises like COVID-19 heighten the need for police services in our neighbourhoods,” their joint statement said.
“Citizens have demanded time and time again to be heard. A virtual information session with a PowerPoint presentation does not meet the minimum standards of community dialogue. Residents deserve an explanation.”
“Residents deserve an explanation.”
Moreover, SPVM did not show any data to support the move, according to Montgomery. For example, presenters of the virtual information meeting could not provide the average number of walk-ins — a statistic which Montgomery said was vital to justify moving.
Big loss for the community
“I find this unacceptable,” councillor Deros said.
Montgomery has vowed to fight the closure of her district’s station.
Meanwhile, SPVM consulted neither the public nor local politicians about closing Park Extension’s station.
“I am not happy,” Deros said. “I believe in the police being in proximity to the district they serve.”
Deros will be meeting with the city police this week. However, police did not tell her they will close the local station.
“Why would they do this quickly?” Deros said. “And why would I be informed at the last minute?”
Moving forward, Deros wants assurance that police visibility will not reduce.
“I need to know that I will still have police supervisors and cadets cruising the area,” Deros said.
“I haven’t had a single description of what’s happening. I find this unacceptable.”
Beyond increasing visibility, Deros thinks a station serves as a safe point for residents to resolve social issues. The loss of a police station will mean residents in unstable circumstances will find it harder to come forward.
“The station is a place where citizens feel comfortable going to privately discuss problems. Sometimes people don’t want police coming into the home. They might not want others to know there is a problem.”
Impact of residents’ safety
It remains to be seen how SPVM will maintain links to the community from a greater distance.
Station 33 housed two community relations officers. Such workers interact closely with senior residents in long-term care homes and communicate with community groups.
Park Extension remains the most ethnically diverse neighbourhood in Quebec. Additionally, the region includes the highest proportion of inhabitants who speak neither English nor French.
Having a station close-by allowed residents to get help from station staff, many of whom themselves come from the community and therefore speak the local languages.
Physical assaults and violence continue to be issues in Park Extension.
Just last week, police took a man to hospital for a gunshot wound after a verbal argument escalated in Jarry Park.
In another instance, two Park Extension residents were physically assaulted while they were taking a walk.
One of the victims, who nearly lost his eyesight, confirmed that Station 33 police were the first to come on the scene.
“Despite it being late evening on a weekend, the officers wasted no time. I really appreciated their punctuality.”
This story appears in the June 26 print issue of Parc-Extension News.