British Columbia

Vancouver police launch task force to address spike in hate crime

The Vancouver Police Department says it's identified 155 hate-associated reports so far this year, up from 69 during the same time period last year.

VPD says it's identified 155 hate incidents so far in 2020, more than double number for same period in 2019

Complaints dealing specifically with anti-Asian racism have spiked to 66 in the first six months of this year, from seven in 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The Vancouver Police Department is creating a six-member task force in response to the increase in hate crimes that have been reported since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The VPD has identified 155 hate-associated reports so far this year. That's up from 69 reports for the same period in 2019.

Complaints dealing specifically with anti-Asian racism have also spiked from seven in 2019 to 66 in the first six months of this year.

In May, the VPD said it had opened 29 hate crime investigations for incidents occurring in the months of March, April, and May, an almost eight-fold increase compared to the same months last year.

Insp. Dale Weidman said the complaints range from acts of mischief — such as spray painting racial slurs — to vicious assaults.

"What those cases represent is it fills the community with fear, it affects their sense of safety and their sense of livability," he said.

"It's actually quite damaging and because people remember these kinds of things and they remember them for a long time."

In one case, a girl was punched in the face in an unprovoked attack that happened on April 12 near the intersection of Granville Street and West Pender Street. Police are still looking for the suspect.

Recommending charges

Weidman says police have recommended charges to Crown counsel in 16 cases, including a disturbing case in April when an elderly Asian man was assaulted at a convenience store.

Investigations continue into 35 other incidents but more than 100 cases have been closed because police have run into dead-ends.

Queenie Choo, CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S, which helps newcomers to Canada, says it's disheartening that racism against members of the Asian community began to increase around the same time the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"It does affect people in a way that instills fear, anxiety and even some depression," she said.

"Even going out, people fear hate crimes or being attacked because of their colour or racial background." 

Since May, the VPD says it's implemented more measures to help combat hate crimes, such as using data and analytics to increase police presence in harder hit areas, and there are new reporting forms for hate incidents available in Chinese.

Queenie Choo, CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S, says she's heard from members of the Asian community who are scared to go outside because of the increase in hate crime.

Task force

Weidman says the hate crime team will operate for as long as it is needed and will be able to pull in resources from other departments of the VPD as necessary.

"It's really quite fluid," Weidman said.

"We'll keep it going as long as there's problems."

Choo says she's encouraged that a team is dedicated to addressing a problem that has caused so much fear and anxiety in the Asian community.

"It's a good thing to have a task force focusing on the issue of hate crime," she said.

"What I would like to see come out of it is to address hate crime immediately by bringing charges to Crown counsel."

Anyone who is a victim of a hate crime is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

With files from Karin Larsen and Jesse Johnston