In the wake of last weekend’s mob vandalism on Locke Street, Hamilton’s police chief is responding to criticism from the business community that officers aren’t doing enough to combat vandalism and graffiti.
On The Bill Kelly Show on Thursday, Eric Girt said police take such offences seriously.
“We have had prosecutions, in fact criminal prosecutions,” Girt said. “This is not a nuisance offence; this is a mischief. We have had people incarcerated for these offences and vandalism. So that is our approach. It’s not that we take it as a nuisance and that it’s not important. It’s very important.”
WATCH BELOW: Hamilton police link Locke street vandalism to anarchist book fair
On Saturday night, a black-clad mob descended on the Locke Street area carrying a banner that said “We are the ungovernable.” An early estimate from police said they caused $100,000 worth of damage from throwing rocks and setting off fireworks.
No group has claimed responsibility, though police have said they believed the event was well-organized.
LISTEN: Police chief Eric Girt joins the Bill Kelly Show on 900 CHML
While the incident has galvanized support for local businesses in the Locke Street area, it has also spurred questions about the response to an “epidemic” of vandalism believed to be linked to anti-gentrification activism.
Architect Bill Curran said the Barton Village Business Improvement Area has started to tally the number of destructive incidents in recent months.
“Certainly what happened on Locke Street on Saturday is of course horrible, but this has been going on since at least the Try! Hamilton event in June 2016, which is 21 months, roughly,” he said in reference to a real estate investment event that was met with protests.
“And during that time we’ve had, you know, really zero interest from the police or city hall in this. We’ve been just ignored, largely,” he said.
LISTEN BELOW: More than just Locke Street has seen anti-gentrification vandalism
Hamilton police are still looking for suspects in the Locke Street case.
On Wednesday, Hamilton anarchist group The Tower denied they had organized the event, but said in a Facebook post condemning gentrification that they have “no tears to shed” for Locke Street.
The Tower is also the group behind the Hamilton Anarchist Book Fair, also known as the Steel City Book Fair, that took place over the weekend at Westdale Secondary School.
Police have claimed that the vandalism is linked to the book fair, but have declined to provide any details on the evidence they have collected.
Meanwhile, Hamilton City Council voted on Thursday in favour of Coun. Donna Skelly’s motion to publicly condemn recent acts of violence against citizens — including Saturday’s attack on Locke Street.
LISTEN BELOW: Donna Skelly joins The Bill Kelly Show
With files from Sara Cain and Ken Mann