Local police stations set to merge

The merger of stations 31 and 33 have some worried about access

The building that will soon house neighbourhood police station 31 is still being renovated. Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk – NEWSFIRST

The SPVM announced last week that it would be merging both the Park Extension and Villeray police stations into one. It comes after several months of speculation on the move.

The merger of stations 31 and 33 is set to be completed by the spring of 2022 and will open in a freshly renovated neighbourhood police station 31 at the corner of de L’Esplanade and Guizot, just north of Jarry Park.

But some have derided the lack of community consultation and are worried about the effects the move will have on police service in Park Extension, especially among elderly and different ethnocultural communities. 

No change to numbers

The merger will not affect police numbers in the area as all officer positions will be retained. “With more police officers working at the same police station, we will have greater room for manoeuvre on a day-to-day basis,” said Commander Jean-Sébastien Marcotte, Chief of the future integrated PDQ 31.

Residents can also expect the SPVM’s Project Action Module (MAP) to carry over in the merger. “A MAP brings together police officers with diverse expertise to combat a local issue,” read a statement released by the SPVM on Jul. 15.

The new station will be made up of a combined 110 police officers, 34 school crossing guards and 4 civilian employees.

Both borough Mayor Giuliana Fumagalli and the Head of Public Security of the Executive Committee, Caroline Bourgeois both expressed their support of the move.

Lack of space

The reasons behind the amalgamation are stated to be both for space and operational reasons. “One of the reasons is the possibility to do more, the flexibility we have with the employees,” said Commander Marcotte. 

He added that by merging both stations, police in the area will be able to combine resources and work more effectively. “The same police will continue to patrol the area,” added Marcotte, hoping to reassure those worried by the move. 

“I understand how citizens feel that the police station won’t be in their neighbourhood anymore,” said Marcotte, but added that the new location was more central than before and only a stone’s throw away from important areas of both neighbourhoods.

“We are closer to a large masse of people when compared to where we were at the south end,” he explained, adding that the previous stations were cramped and couldn’t accommodate staff properly. 

Need for consultation

Abdelhaq Sari is City Councillor for Montréal-Nord and the oppositions’ Vice-Chair of Montreal’s Public Safety Commission. Although he is not against the move itself, he feels that more could have been done to consult residents and local stakeholders. 

“All we had were information sessions,” said Sari adding that “local organizations, elderly people and various committees in place who play a vital role in proximity services were not taken into consideration.”

Sari and Ensemble Montréal are instead asking the SPVM to provide a global coverage plan for the city instead of making what he calls piecemeal mergers like this one. “For the moment, we haven’t gotten that coverage plan or public consultation, and that’s what hurts the most,” he explained.

He also added that with various populations in differing socio-economic situations across Park Extension and Villeray, police service must be tailored to its operating area. “You must diversify the service depending on the clientele,” he explained.

Although Marcotte understands how residents would like to be consulted on the matter, he explained it was a complicated process. “I know some people would have liked consultations, but it’s very, very complex,” stressed Marcotte.

“There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the decision for the choice of a venue,” he added, explaining that options for an appropriate location for a police station are already very limited. 

The new location will be on Avenue de l’Esplanade. Photo: SPVM

Complicated process

He added that he felt confident that the police would continue to tailor their service according to the needs of local populations. “The police in Villeray already go to Park Extension,” he said, adding that the two stations’ socio-community agents were already working together.

“We want to stay anchored in the community,” said Marcotte. 

Moratorium on mergers

This comes after a moratorium was declared by the municipal government in December 2020. As the process was already underway for stations 31 and 33, the merger was allowed to move forward.

The merger is the most recent in a growing number over the past years. The number of neighbourhood police stations has gone down from 49 in 1995, to 30 today. This includes the mergers of stations 24 and 26 in 2019 and stations 9 and 11 in 2020. 

The SPVM spent Friday morning in Park Extension distributing leaflets to people and going door to door to communicate the decision to the population. It will also be holding a virtual information session on Sept. 22, but will most likely push the date forward. 

Residents can get more information by calling PDQ 33 at 514-280-0033 or by sending an email to integration.3133@spvm.qc.ca.

The SPVM spent Friday morning in Park Extension distributing leaflets to people and going door to door to communicate the decision to the population. Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk – NEWSFIRST