May 17, 2018 5:25 pm

‘People feel more comfortable coming forward’: London police address rise in hate crime

Brad Schweitzer holds up the pride flag, which he discovered folded on his porch with cigarette burns in July 2017.

Natalie Lovie/980 CFPL
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An uptick in reported hate and bias-motivated crimes isn’t reason to “sound the alarm,” according to one of the London’s top police officials.

A report that went before the police services board Thursday afternoon said there were 64 hate-related incidents reported in 2017, and deputy chief Steve Williams said the numbers were up from years past because the public feels more comfortable bringing complaints to police.

“In that respect, the increase in reporting is probably a good thing,” Williams told fellow board members.

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There were 40 reported incidents in 2016 and 46 reported incidents in 2015.

READ MORE: London couple feels ‘violated’ after pride flag burned with cigarettes

Williams also attributed the increase to improved police training and their presence on social media.

“I think 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 probably more so than they did in the past.”

Hate crimes fall to the force’s street gang unit, and its members have been providing training to other frontline officers, he explained.

“We’ve been tagged on Twitter and all the other social media in various photos and conversations, and we’ve had a number of complaints come to us via that route, which wouldn’t have happened even a couple of years ago.”

There were 31 hate-related charges laid last year; 15 charges for assault and eight charges for threats or annoying phone calls. Of 25 reported incidents about property damage or graffiti, police laid three charges.

READ MORE: Racial slur on the back of a family vehicle in north London prompts police investigation

In 2017, police investigated a racial-slur written in the snow on the back of black family’s vehicle, and after a gay couple’s pride flag was burned with cigarettes. Earlier that year, they pressed charges against two teenage boys in relation to hateful graffiti on the front doors of a local high.

“Overall, I don’t think we need to sound the alarm button,” said Williams, when asked by a fellow board member whether police had compared the increase of hate-related reports to reports of other crimes.

“It’s something we continue to watch, and again, the fact people are feeling comfortable coming forward I think is probably key. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

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