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Hamilton police record drop in hate incidents, advocate says report has ‘huge gaping hole’

Will Erskine / Global News

Hamilton police will report a 13.1 per cent decrease in hate incidents when a 2020 year-end study is presented at a board meeting on Friday.

The ‘2020 Hate/Bias Statistical Report’ compiled by the police hate crime unit (HCU) says there were a total of 80 hate/bias incidents last year compared to 92 reported in 2019.

The submission claims to cover offences committed against persons or property motivated by several attributes including race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other “similar factors.”

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Of the 80 reports, eight encounters were classified as offences with proof of bias or prejudice. Six were tied to race occurrences with four of those involving an assault.

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The 72 other incidents had were believed to have had some type of racial overtone but could not be proven.

In 2020, police say there were 44 incidents allegedly targeting a racial bias, 31 aimed at religion and just a pair of cases involving sexual orientation.

The most targeted group was the Black population with 33 racial bias experiences reported, while the communities characterized as South Asian and Arab/West Asian were the subject of four incidents.

The Jewish community received the bulk of the hate incidents, 30, targeting religion. That’s one more case than in 2019.

There was just a single incident reported among the Islamic community, a decrease of 87. 5 per cent with eight incidents reported the previous year.

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Of complaints tied to sexual orientation and gender identity, three claims were made by those who identified with the transgender population while two were with the gay community.

Most incidents, 30, were reported to Hamilton police’s Central division on King William Street, while 23 were reported to the Mountain station on Rymal Road East, and 19 at the East end division on King Street East.

A total of 108 incidents were filed with a new online hate/bias reporting system between March and the end of Dec. 2020 – designed for those not comfortable reporting in person.

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However, in all, just 22 were deemed as meeting the criteria for a hate-based incident by the service.

Of those, 12 occurred at a place of worship, private dwelling or business and directed to an “identifiable group” with no evidence to suggest a hate/bias incident, while 10 were episodes in which there were hate/bias overtones, such as graffiti-related occurrence.

The report was met with some skepticism from a few advocates in the city including Kojo Damptey from the Hamilton Centre of Civic Inclusion who posted a Periscope video on Twitter commenting on the review line by line.

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Damptey said the report has a “huge gaping hole” and believes the 80 investigations don’t capture the “whole picture” of hate incidents.

“I must stress the number 80 is the number that the Hamilton police deem as necessary to investigate,” said Damptey.

“As members of the community that experience different forms of hate, we know that there are some types of hate incidents that don’t rise to the level of criminality. So where are those numbers?”

The online tool was another one of the “gaps” according to Damptey who wondered what happened to the 80 claims that were not deemed worthy.

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“I think we need to know why are those numbers are not here,” Damptey said.

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“What’s the criteria that is being used, and also what resources were provided to the 80 or so individuals whose reports weren’t addressed?”

He was also skeptical with the report’s use of percentages, particularly surrounding the decrease in incidents involving the Islamic community, which made seven fewer cases in 2020 compared to 2019 seem like a huge drop.

“When you use percentages, we have this tendency of saying, oh, there was a decrease of 87.5 per cent,” said Damptey.

The chair of the local LGBTQ2 advisory committee Cameron Kroetsch echoed Damptey’s point on using percentages saying it makes it seem like progress is being made.

“Looking at the numbers in the report, and comparing them to 2019, we can see there really hasn’t been a significant change,” Kroetsch said in a post.

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