Hate crimes up in 53 Division

Incidents in midtown neighbourhoods contributed to a slight spike in hate-motivated crimes reported to police last year.

According to a 2009 hate crime statistics report recently presented to the Police Services Board, 174 hate incidents were reported to police, up 14 percent from the previous year.

Midtown’s 53 Division reflected that rise, reporting 17 incidents of hate-fuelled crime. In 2008, only nine occurrences were reported.

The Jewish community was most often targeted, followed by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community, and the black community.

The incidents targeting 53 Division were a real smattering of different groups and types of offences, including mischief, threatening, harassment and assault.

Though the number jumped from 2008, there was nothing in particular that stood out as being a significant problem, said Detective Sergeant Dan Nealon, of 53 Division.

“It’s hard to predict when it can happen or why it happens,” said Nealon. “This year, we’ve had zero occurrences to date.”

Bernie Farber, of the Canadian Jewish Congress said 2009 was characterized by rhetorical street violence evident at public

Midtown in particular is home to several embassies and foreign consulates, which can be targets during protests and marches.

“There is nothing wrong with people … protesting passionately,” said Farber. “There is something very wrong with taking that protest and screaming death threats to your fellow citizens. That is unacceptable behaviour.”

Despite the increase, data collected may not paint an accurate picture of hate-based activity in Toronto, as there is still a degree of public reluctance to report such crimes.

Howard Shulman, coordinator of community services at 519 Church Street Community Centre, echoed that sentiment. He cited a study that found for every reported incident of hate, about 9 or 10 go unreported.

“Because of that we don’t really get to see pervasiveness of hate crimes,” he said.