Hamilton police investigating swastikas painted on Dundas streets

Two swastikas painted on streets in a quiet Dundas neighbourhood have spurred an investigation from Hamilton police's hate crime unit.

Police say there has been an uptick in hate crimes in Hamilton in the last 3 weeks

Hamilton police are investigating Swastika graffiti in Dundas as a hate crime. (Submitted by David Arbuckle)

Two swastikas painted on streets in a quiet Dundas neighbourhood have spurred an investigation from Hamilton police's hate crime unit.

Det. Paul Corrigan told CBC, police received word of the racist graffiti on Saturday, Sept. 5 at about 6 p.m in Greensville, near Harvest Road and Brock Road.

He said someone painted over one of the swastikas, but police also found other graffiti nearby and think all three instances are connected.

The swastika, an image used in religions including Hinduism and Buddhism, symbolized peace for hundreds of years. It is now more widely known as the symbol used by Nazi fascists in Germany during Second World War when roughly six million Jewish people were murdered during the Holocaust.

Kristin Glasbergen saw the swastika during a walk with her family on Sunday morning. She said she didn't know if the police would respond during the long weekend and didn't call right away. Then, she saw another one on Tuesday morning. She said she was repulsed.

"I called the city to let them know and I posted on Facebook to let the community there know," she told CBC.

"This doesn't happen in Greensville."

David Arbuckle, a resident in the neighbourhood, spotted the racist graffiti while walking with his family on Monday.

"I was shocked and disgusted that some took the opportunity to purposely spread a message of hate in our community," he told CBC.

Corrigan said because it is a quiet area, there isn't CCTV footage to rely on and hopes the small community will be able to identify a suspect.

"Hopefully somebody knows somebody ... it's not like the downtown core where people are travelling through. I'm guessing it's someone from the area," he explained.

There's also a chance they can trace the graffiti to the suspect if there's enough of them. Last year, Corrigan said 11 instances of graffiti were linked to one person.

The crime itself is mischief but is also investigated separately as a hate crime. While someone could serve 14 years in jail for a hate crime, the more likely sentence for graffiti is a few months.

More hate crimes in recent weeks

Corrigan said there have been 42 reported hate crimes so far this year. Last year, that number at the same point in time was 79. The overall number of reported hate crimes in 2019 was 92.

He speculates the number is down because of COVID-19.

But there have been more cases recently.

"The last three weeks, there seems to be an uptick, especially in graffiti, which is our number one hate crime offence every year," he said.

Corrigan said there have been 14 reports of swastikas this year. He added that acts of anti-Semitism and anti-Black racism are the most common hate crimes.