'We don't know what we don't know': Police chief encourages reporting of hate incidents as London, Ont. sees surge in 2020
London police Chief Steve Williams says there has been a gradual increase in hate crimes reported in London over the past several years. But he says a noticeable surge took place in 2020 following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May of 2020.
“And I think that’s partially due to more awareness in the community,” he explained in an interview with CTV News last week after the deadly attack on a Muslim family June 6.
“I think it’s also due to less tolerance,” he added. “As eduation and awareness of - what is a hate crime, what is a hate-motivated crime, people are less tolerant - and I think that’s good. So if they are reporting more incidents, and our officers are trained to identify these incidents, then that’s a good thing.”
His comments come as the London Police Service will release its annual report on hate crimes at the London Police Services Board meeting Thursday.
In the report, a hate crime is defined as constituting a criminal act, such as hate-related violence. Alternatively, a hate incident is more closely related to behaviour, but is not necessarily criminal in nature. That could include hostile speech.
Police say that in 2020 there were 44 hate crimes, up from 30 in 2019. Also in 2020, there were 49 hate incidents, up from 31 the previous year.
The group most targeted in hate occurrences was Blacks, accounting for 28 in total in 2020, compared to 13 the year before. The majority (20) of the 28 in 2020 came after the killing of George Floyd.
Williams urges reporting of incidents.
“We don’t know what we don’t know,” he said. “Domestic violence is a good comparator. A lot of it’s not reported. And that’s the same with hate crimes- people don’t report always. So, part of our job is the education and awareness piece.”
He said individual groups have to be comfortable coming forward, and reporting to police.
The annual report comes as London city council passed a motion Monday to officially condemn Islamaphobia, and take steps to combat hate.
“I’m here to call out my own city,” said an emotional Councillor Mo Salih in addressing his colleagues. “London, we have a problem.”
The motion, passed unanimously by council, makes a commitment to end Islamaphobia, and to determine a way to honour the victims of last week’s truck attack. Council is also calling for a national action summit on Islamaphobia.
“White supremacy, racism, and Islamophobia kills. Period. I am asking each of you to say enough is enough, I’m asking you to never be a bystander. Hold our city accountable.”