By Robert Frank
Pimps who had been exploiting young women were the last people to be arrested by a combined task force of Laval and North Shore police, March 27, before it disbanded at the end of last month and sent its members back to their own jurisdictions.
Though the cross-jurisdictional regional squad racked up more than 800 arrests in its five-year existence, the federal funds that sustained the collaborative law-enforcement effort ran out, March 31.
“It was made possible through a five-year program introduced by the Conservative government to fight street crime and organized crime at different levels,” explained Laval police Sgt. Frédéric Jean.
The Combined Regional Squad brought together members of municipal police forces from Laval and smaller, neighbouring cities, including Repentigny, Terrebonne, Mirabel, Sainte Thérèse, Blainville, Lorraine, Rosemère, Ste. Eustache and St. Jérôme—where, two weeks ago, the joint efforts caught an alleged mole spying inside the St. Jérôme police service.
Unusually, the team was headed by Laval police, rather than Sûreté du Québec, as is done elsewhere in the province.
“All the Combined Regional Squad detectives were based at Laval police headquarters,” Sgt. Jean told The Suburban in an interview. “The other police forces benefited from the resources that we could contribute. Laval provided all the support staff, detention facilities, evidence rooms, canine units, forensic technicians, tactical teams and physical surveillance services.”
He indicated that Laval’s police personnel will be assigned to the municipal anti-gang squad, led by Lt. Anthony Donato, where they will continue to fight the same sort of crime. However, their efforts will now be limited to crimes in Laval.
“This will have an obvious impact that will be felt in the smaller jurisdictions,” observed Sgt. Jean. “The Combined Regional Squad facilitated sharing intelligence over a larger area, making it easier to centralize information.”
“If you go back five years, cities like St. Sauveur and St. Jérôme didn’t have a lot of street gangs,” he recalled. “It was a relatively rare occurrence. With the pressure that was applied in Montreal and Laval, they have since moved into other areas.”The Combined Regional Squad operated on an annual budget of about $1.5 million, Sgt. Jean said.
Although finance minister Jim Flaherty’s federal budget this month did not renew the program, it contained other funding to help hire police officers and to prevent youth crime.
“Since 2006, we have created initiatives that support our country’s law enforcement agencies and provide them with the tools and support that they need,” Nichole Beck, a political aide to Senator Larry Smith told The Suburban in an electronic mail message, after the federal budget was tabled in the House of Commons.
“The police officer recruitment fund is a one-time provision that showed the government’s commitment to public safety,” she wrote. “We have also funded initiatives that serve to educate youth not to get involved in gang activity.”
As The Suburban went to press, it remained unclear whether the demise of Quebec’s combined squads is final.
According to a report in the newspaper Voix de l’Est, the Granby-Sûreté du Québec combined squad has obtained $150,000 in interim funding, which will give it a reprieve until the end of 2013.
“A lot of discussion between the provincial and federal governments remains ongoing,” noted Sgt. Jean.
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