Hamilton’s Jews remain the primary target for hate crimes based on religion according to a new report.
The latest annual report of the hate crime unit of the Hamilton Police Services shows 32 hate-related incidents based on religion in 2019 with 30 of those incidents targeting the Jewish community.
In total the unit recorded 92 hate related incidents during 2019. While most involved only harassment, eight incidents were recorded as actual crimes. Half of those crimes were recorded against Jews. Blacks were the targets in 34 of the racial incidents.
A year after Hamilton topped a Statistics Canada report on hate incidents the police survey for 2019 showed a 26.4 per cent drop in reported incidents – from 125 in 2018 to 92 in 2019.
Of the total, 38 of the reported incidents and three of the crimes concerned bias based on religion. Racial bias accounted for 34 incidents and five of the reported crimes, with blacks as the primary targets. Another eight incidents targeted the LGBT community.
Seven arrests were recorded in 2019, up from three the year before. Reported crimes included assault and mischief, most involving graffiti.
The report was presented to the city’s Police Services Board on March 12. Members welcomed the overall drop in numbers, while worrying the official statistics capture only a small portion of the overall problem. They also expressed hope a new online reporting system will bring out more incidents.
“It’s good news that there’s a decline in the overall incidents,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger, a member of the board. “This new system will be a great tool and I hope it gives people the confidence to report.”
The new system, announced recently, allows people to report incidents through a link on the police department’s web site, rather than having to go into a station or have an officer come out.
Sgt. Paul Corrigan, head of the Hate Crime and Extremism Unit, said as many as two-thirds of all hate-related incidents are never reported to police, often because of a fear of police or feeling that there’s no point in reporting an event.
The new system may start to change that thinking.
“We know hate crimes are generally under reported and we’ve heard loud and clear that people need a way to report incidents to police in manner that is comfortable to them,” Hamilton police’s Deputy Chief Frank Bergen said in a news release announcing the system.
“Hate crime in Hamilton is not acceptable. Left unchecked, we know hate crime can have a far reaching impact on communities. This new online reporting system is a way anyone can report a hate/bias incident and ensure appropriate resources are assigned to make our community safer,” he added.
The 2019 report comes a few days after Statistics Canada’s 2018 review of hate incidents. It found Hamilton had the highest rate of hate-related incidents in the country at 17.1 per 100,000 population.
A Statistics Canada report last year showed Hamilton had the country’s highest number of reported incidents. The 92 incidents reported in 2019 are a sharp change from the 10-year average of 128.4 incidents.
The federal agency reported last year that while 2018 saw a 13 per cent decrease in reported hate crimes across the country (from 2,073 incidents to 1,798), incidents in Hamilton rose 6.6 per cent from 2017. That rise followed a hike of 30 per cent in 2017.
With reported incidents averaging 17.1 per 100,000 population the rate in Hamilton was more than three times the national average.
The new hate/bias reporting tool is available on the Hamilton police website at www.hamiltonpolice.on.ca. Incidents can still be reported by phone at 905-546-4925 or in person at any police station.