Toronto Police Services (TPS) will be drastically increasing the size of its specialized hate-crimes unit following a growing number of reported incidents.
The unit will now have 20 investigators and eight district special constables. Prior to Oct. 7, the unit had six dedicated officers and no special constables.
Special constables interview witnesses and take videos of alleged offences.
A form has also been added to the TPS website to make it easier to report hate-motivated graffiti.
Hate crimes, including hate-motivated graffiti, have risen across the country, since Oct. 7, when Hamas attacks killed 1,400 people in Israel and triggered a war.
“A hate-motivated crime not only victimizes individuals, but also entire communities,” Toronto police chief Myron Demkiw said in a press release. “We urge Torontonians to please report these incidents to police so we can investigate and hold people to account who commit these crimes.”
Between Oct. 7 and Oct. 9, a total of 14 hate crimes were reported to the police, the police chief said at the Police Services Board meeting on Oct. 19. Twelve incidents were related to antisemitism, while two were related to anti-Muslim events.
Hate crimes are on the increase overall in the city, with 237 crimes being reported to police from Jan. 1 to Oct. 7 this year, compared with 192 in the same period last year.
Updated statistics will be provided at the next police services board meeting on Nov. 23.
The dramatic expansion of Toronto’s hate crimes unit indicates the rapidly growing number of reported incidents, said Noah Shack, vice-president of Countering Antisemitism and Hate for UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
This is an extraordinary step… It demonstrates this is a real problem that police are taking seriously and they’re allocating resources to deal with it and that’s something we’re very appreciative of and supportive of,” Shack said in an interview with The CJN.
“Not a day goes by where we don’t receive reports of hate incidents occurring in Toronto. This isn’t unique to Toronto, it’s happening in cities across Canada and around the world and it’s encouraging to know police are paying attention and taking steps needed to be in a position to hold those who are perpetrating hate crimes accountable.”
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is seeing a rise in antisemitism that is “terrifying.”
“Molotov cocktails thrown at synagogues, horrific threats of violence targeting Jewish businesses, targeting Jewish daycares with hate. This needs to stop,” he said. “This is something that is not acceptable in Canada.”
“Canadians are scared in their own streets right now,” Trudeau said, referring to growing antisemitism and Islamophobia.
A Montreal synagogue and a Jewish community centre were the targets of firebombs Monday night. Arrests have been made by police forces across the country for hate crimes including uttering threats, assault and graffiti.
“It’s absolutely galling that tomorrow is 85 years since Kristallnacht, that we in 2023 have people intimidating customers and vandalizing Jewish businesses in the City of Toronto. That’s something that is horrifying as a Jewish person but should be horrifying to anyone in this city,” Shack said.