It’s a bird. It’s a plane, or there’s a chance you’re seeing a drone heading toward one of Quebec’s provincial detention centres.
Statistics recently released by Quebec’s public security minister indicate the use of drones by people seeking to sneak contraband to criminals in Quebec’s jails has grown exponentially over the last five years.
According to the table released, through an Access to Information request, the number of possible drone sightings (or signalled) by staff at detention centres multiplied by a factor of 30 over a four-year period that ended in the middle of 2016. During the period covering 2013-2014, four possible drone sightings were reported. During the period covering 2016-2017, 120 sightings were reported.
The statistics also indicate the current period (2017-2018) will likely set another record as 56 possible drone sightings have already been reported so far. According to figures released by the provincial government earlier this year, guards at detention centres seized contraband on more than half of the occasions they investigated after a possible drone sighting was reported. Also, during a period between July 2013 and December 2016, guards actually recovered 11 drones.
The numbers indicate the tiny flying craft, which can be operated from a distance by remote control, continue to be an increasingly popular method to bring contraband like drugs, smart phones, alcohol and tobacco into jails where the value of those products increase significantly when sold to inmates and detainees.
Arrests in such cases are rare. But on Aug. 3, police in Laval arrested a 46-year-old LaSalle resident who is alleged to have piloted a drone across the Rivière des Prairies toward the Montreal Detention Centre, located close to the south shore of the river on Gouin Blvd. The man, Tyree Virgo, was charged with possession of drugs with the intent to traffick. On Sept. 5, a Quebec Court judge turned down in his request for bail following a hearing at the Montreal courthouse. Virgo’s case returns to court on Friday.
On Sept. 12, the Sûreté du Québec arrested a man and a woman near the Quebec Detention Centre after someone called police to report seeing a drone hovering over that jail. When police arrived, they spotted the couple in car close to where the drone had been sighted. The SQ also recovered a drone nearby and a package that appeared to contain drugs.