Montreal has a problem with its public transit, and it has nothing to do with service delays or broken buses. Rather it is people, the citizens of Montreal, who are at the core of this problem, as reports of sexual crimes are alarmingly on the rise within the city's public transit network.
*NOTE: The following section of the article has been updated on July 26
Police are currently looking for this man:
On May 15 at the Montmorency station, this man climbed aboard the metro wagon, sat down in front of a woman and proceeded to expose his penis to her several times during the trip.
The woman was horrified, so she took out her phone to take a picture of the suspect to send it to the police. Once he noticed he was being filmed the suspect quickly fled the scene.
The man is about 50 years old with a beard and salt and pepper hair. He measures 5 ft 9 and weighs 170 pounds. If you have any information please contact the police at 450 662-INFO.
But that's just once incident.
For the last three years, incidents involving sexual predators on the STM network (primarily the metro) have been steadily increasing. 2014 saw 31 crimes reported, and that number more than doubled in 2015, with 65 individual reports, a record high notes Global Montreal. 20 reports have already been filed this year.
"Sexual crimes" in this context allude to both the groping of "intimate parts" by complete strangers as well as acts of exhibitionism, or "flashing" as it is more commonly referred. The two forms of sexual crimes are the most prevalent on the STM network, but physical sexual assault has also been reported.
Somewhat surprisingly, the most common times for sexual crimes to be perpetrated on the metro (or, as is less frequent, the bus) is not during off-peak hours when there aren't many people on a train.
Rush hour is the most problematic time. Since sexual predators are hidden by scores of transit-users, they are able to touch others or reveal parts of their body somewhat discreetly, all without drawing the attention of the entire train and being somewhat hidden from surveillance cameras.
All the more troubling is the fact that the aforementioned figures on sexual crimes only include incidents that were actually reported to the police. A majority of such sexual crimes are simply ignored and pushed out of mind by Montrealers, no matter how inappropriate or emotionally damaging.
Montrealers simply aren't telling the SPVM when many of such indecent acts occur, but the police force hopes that will change. With a new initiative put forth in collaboration with the STM, dubbed "Réagissez–dénoncez/See It-Speak Out," both organizations hope to prompt Montrealers to report any form of sexual crime on the public transit network.
The SPVM noted that many Montrealers who have been the victim of a sexual crime will often take to social media to "report" the incident, but rarely file a police report. In truth, it's probably because the former is far easier to do, as filing an official police report can be quite time consuming, and many Montrealers probably think "why bother?"
That's a problem in and of itself, because if citizens become complacent to sexual crimes, even in the "mildest" of forms, it can have disastrous results. If a groper on the metro repeatedly gets away with his crime, who's to say the person won't slowly become more aggressive, leading to more heinous acts?
And yes, we are quite aware that sexual crimes can be committed by both men and women, though in truth, when it comes to groping and flashing, men tend to make up the majority of perpetrators. It would also be wrong to assume the homeless population or drug-users are also more likely to be sexual predators, because anyone can commit a sexual crime.
So if you see someone on the metro touching another person inappropriately, revealing themselves, or any other manner of sexualized act, take the time to actually report the crime, because simply "letting it go" does not help fix the problem.