Hamilton

Hate crimes, incidents in Hamilton are underreported, police say

A hate/bias crimes report was just a snapshot, the chief said, because hate speech and incidents are often not reported to police.

The black community was the group targeted most, police said, with 30 incidents involving hate or bias

Three men stand outside the Ibrahim Jame Mosque on Sept. 15, 2016, hours after a man was charged with arson after setting fire to the entrance. (David Beatty/CBC)

Hate and bias incidents stayed at about the same level last year as 2015, Hamilton police said in a report to the service's oversight board Thursday.

But the report was just a snapshot, the chief said, because hate speech and incidents are often not reported to police.

There were 115 hate and bias incidents in Hamilton last year – including crimes and incidents when there were "overtones" of bias or prejudice against a particular group, race, religion or other affinity.

"It is frustrating to see even one hate crime on this paper, to be honest," said Walt Juchniewicz, a civilian appointee to the board.

Hate/bias crime: A criminal offence where there is evidence to suggest that the offence was motivated because of a bias or prejudice about race, language, religion, etc. A hate incident is one that has a racial "overtone" or an event that happened at a place of worship, for example. (CBC News)

There were many more incidents against Jewish people in 2016 as there were the year earlier.

In 2016, there were 21 incidents targeting the Jewish community and 10 incidents targeting members of the Islamic community, police said.

That seemed to flip from 2015.

In 2016, there were only 9 incidents targeting the Jewish community, and 16 against the Muslim community.

The chief said he didn't want to comment on the flip because the sample size is small, and because he knows hate crimes are "underreported".

"We also know the level of fear is up, because of – I'll call it national and international events," he said. "So the hesitancy to come forward may be there, and it may be the cause."

Girt said he has been at events recently where people have remarked that they didn't want to make a big deal of some comments made by someone.

"If you happen to be living in an apartment complex, and someone has made those disparaging comments, well, you're one apartment dweller. They may be doing it to all kinds of people," he said.

"We know, it may escalate to crime. We certainly want to stop it at the bullying stage, but we do need reporting to come forward."

Racial bias topped the list for incidents in 2016, police said. There were 58 incidents tied to racial bias, and 37 connected to religion.

The black community was the group targeted most, police said, with 30 incidents involving hate or bias.

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