Hamilton hate and bias incidents rose 18% in 2017, police say

Hamilton police looked into 136 hate and bias incidents last year, an increase of 18.3 per cent from the previous year.

Hate/bias crimes went down between 2016 and 2017, but total incidents are up, police say

A man who set a fire at the entrance to the Ibrahim Jame Mosque in 2016 was sentenced last year to 25 months in jail, three years of probation and a lifetime ban on owning weapons and on possessing incendiary devices outside his home. (David Beatty/CBC)

Hamilton police looked into 136 hate and bias incidents last year, an increase of 18.3 per cent from the previous year.

While incidents classified as hate crimes went down, the number of incidents rose sharply.

The Hamilton police hate crime unit said there were five hate or bias crimes committed in 2017, down from 15 in 2016.

The crimes included graffiti, assault, assault with a weapon, uttering a threat and sexual assault.

There were 126 incidents reported with hate or bias overtones, and five incidents with unknown motivation.

There were 18 per cent more hate and bias incidents investigated by Hamilton police last year than in 2016. (Hamilton Police Service)

The report is just a snapshot, because not all hate incidents are reported to police.

Police want to see that change. In a report that will be presented at the Hamilton police services board this Thursday, they say the importance of telling police about such incidents "cannot be understated."

"The effects these crimes have on the wider community has been described as a form of terrorism because of the fear that is spread," the report says.

Most of the incidents, or 67, related to racial bias. Religion was the target for 41 of incidents. And 27 incidents related to sexual orientation.

The most targeted racial group was Hamilton's black community, with 40 incidents. That's 25 per cent more than the 30 investigated incidents last year.

Most of the religious incidents, 24, targeted Jewish people – mostly graffiti, followed by 15 incidents targeted at the Muslim community.

Both groups were targeted more in 2017 than in 2016, which had 21 hate/bias incidents against Jewish people and 10 incidents against the Muslim community.

There was also an increase in incidents targeting members of the LGBTQ2 community.

Incidents targeting people who identify as gay rose to 22, up from 13 the year before.

Incidents targeting people who identify as trans dropped from seven in 2016 to five in 2017.