Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

The number of hate crime calls to Toronto police has risen since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out earlier this month, the police chief has said.

During Thursday’s Toronto Police Services board meeting, Chief Myron Demkiw said the daily average of hate-related calls for service increased by 132 per cent since the Israel-Hamas war began.

“This reflects an escalation in hate-motivated incidents and also heightened public tensions,” Demkiw said during his monthly verbal update.

The chief noted that some hate crimes police have verified include mischief, uttering death threats and criminal harassment.

Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 7, Toronto police received 237 hate crime reports, up from the 192 incidents reported in the same period last year.

During the first days of the war – from Oct. 7 to Oct. 9 – Toronto police saw an additional 14 hate crime reports. In comparison, police only saw five incidents over the same period last year and just one in 2021.

Demkiw shared that of the 14 reported hate crimes, 12 were related to antisemitism, and two were in connection with anti-Muslim and anti-Islam events.

“We have been clear, and we remain resolute that Toronto Police Service will not tolerate acts of violence, intimidation, or hate toward anyone or any community. We will facilitate lawful protest. We will be vigilant and resolute in our service to our communities and the residents of this city,” Demkiw said.

Toronto police boosted their presence around Jewish and Palestinian communities and other places of worship in response to the war that began when Hamas, a militant group listed by the Canadian government as a terrorist, launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing more than 1,400 people. The group also took nearly 200 hostages.

Israel retaliated with multiple airstrikes, bombarding the Gaza Strip. More than 3,500 people have been killed and more than 12,000 have been wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

“The impact of these events has been felt deeply here in Toronto, where family members and friends of those living in the region worry about their loved ones,” said Demkiw, adding that he’s been meeting with many members of the Jewish and Palestinian communities.

“I’ve heard directly that they are not only concerned for their family and friends living in the conflicted regions, but they’re also fearful for their own safety here in our city.”

Demkiw said safety measures implemented in the wake of the war will be in place for the foreseeable future. They include high visibility patrols and deployments focusing on places of worship, schools and community centres.

“We’ve deployed two command posts to be in the community and available for people in the community to engage with our officers while out and about,” the chief added.

“(We’ve) directed all officers to have uniforms and to be ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice as operationally required.”

– with The Associated Press

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