London

Reported hate crimes on the rise in London, police say

A report submitted to the London Police Services Board shows hate and bias-related crimes have climbed in the last year. But Deputy Chief Steve Williams said the numbers could be because of increased reporting.

A report submitted to the London Police Services Board showed 64 incidents in 2017, compared to 40 in 2016

Deputy Chief Steve Williams said community members are becoming more comfortable at reporting hate-related incidents to police. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Reports of hate and bias-motivated crimes were on the rise last year, according to numbers submitted to the London Police Services Board on Thursday.

The report said there were 64 reported incidents in 2017, compared to 40 incidents in 2016. 

Of those incidents, 31 charges were laid in 2017, compared with 11 charges laid in 2016.

Deputy Chief Steve Williams said there are a few reasons why the numbers are up, given that the statistics show better reporting behaviour. 

Our officers are generally more in tune with what's going on in the community, so when they attend calls for service they will identify hate crime more so than they did in the past.- Deputy Chief Steve Williams

Williams said it could be that members of the public are getting more comfortable with reaching out to police, or that police officers themselves are getting better at identifying crimes as hate-motivated.

"I do think there's a greater comfort level in the community in coming forward and reporting incidents, so in that respect the increase in reporting is probably a good thing if people are more comfortable coming forward," said Williams, who also noted that the street gang unit has developed more awareness of hate crimes in recent years.

"Our officers are generally more in tune with what's going on in the community and more educated, so when they attend calls for service they will identify hate crime more so than they did in the past," he said.

Social media could also play a role, Williams said, because members of the public can flag hate crimes by tagging the police in photos and posts online. He said that his team has responded to a number of complaints because of social media it otherwise wouldn't have been aware of.

Williams said his team will keep a close eye on numbers of reported hate crimes, but said that it will take 'three to five' years to better establish a trend.

Comparison to other areas

When asked by board member Vanessa Ambtman-Smith about how London's hate crimes compare to other cities, Williams said it's difficult to make that comparison, because methods of tracking hate crimes aren't standardized across the province.

Williams said having access to a provincially standardized way of tracking data 'wouldn't hurt.'

"Police statistics in general are always an issue and how police services locally record crime has never been entirely consistent," said Williams.

Chair Mo Salih said the board plans to write a letter to the province asking about current methods of tracking hate crime data and advocating for a more consistent way of doing so.

"Of course, right now government is dissolved so we might not get a response as soon as we like, but we can follow up and have conversations after the new government is formed," he said.

What were the 64 reported incidents in 2017?

  • One reported homicide
  • One reported arson

  • Three reported incidents of criminal harassment

  • Five reported incidents of assault

  • Seven reported incidents of hate mail/literature

  • Seven reported incidents of racial slurs

  • 15 reported incidents of threats or annoying phone calls

  • 25 reported incidents of property damage and graffiti

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