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Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and police chief Sylvain Caron take part in a news conference in Montreal, on Feb. 11, 2021.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Montreal’s police chief announced a new investigations unit on Thursday that will target weapon traffickers, following a rise in gun-related crime across parts of the city and the recent shooting death of a 15-year-old.

Chief Sylvain Caron told reporters that he met with the family of Meriem Boundaoui, the teenage bystander who was sitting in a car Sunday when another vehicle drove by and someone opened fire.

Caron said he promised the 15-year-old’s family that the police would do everything they can to solve her slaying. “Nobody remained indifferent, myself first as a father,” Caron said. “What happened should never happen.”

He said a specialized squad of 22 investigators will probe the source of illegal firearms, starting Feb. 22, adding that there will be an increased police presence in the northeastern Montreal boroughs with a notable uptick in gun-related crimes.

Caron said the normalization of gun violence must end and citizens have the right to live safely in their neighbourhoods. The police chief noted that weapons have become trivialized by too many young people in the city, some of whom he said post images of themselves to social media brandishing guns.

“That’s not normal,” Caron said.

Insp. David Shane told reporters it’s hard to identify what is behind the upsurge in gun-related cases. He said the new specialized squad, which will be known by the acronym ELTA, will help answer that question.

“They’ll bring us to another level, being able to remove weapons from the street beforehand, before these events take place,” Shane said.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said she spoke to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday about the federal government’s role in controlling handguns in Canadian cities.

The Trudeau Liberals want to allow municipalities to regulate handguns in their jurisdictions, but Plante said a national approach would be more effective because weapons travel across the country. Plante said she will discuss the matter with Public Security Minister Bill Blair next week.

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