Hate crimes up by 30% in 2023: Vancouver Police

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas War, Vancouver Police are reporting a 31 per cent jump in hate crimes and a massive 62 per cent increase in incidents of antisemitism.

By CityNews Staff

Vancouver has seen a sharp increase in hate crimes, police say, as reported incidents jumped over 30 per cent in 2023 compared to the year prior.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) shared Tuesday that it investigated 265 hate crime reports last year, adding that “increased reporting from the 2SLGBTQ+, South Asian, and Jewish communities – fueled largely by geo-political tensions – were all major factors.”

The police force also explained that “tensions” from the Israel-Hamas war have contributed to an increase in reported hate crimes, along with protests. The VPD says the war is the “single biggest reason” for the increases.

“Sunday marked 100 days since the Hamas attack on Israel, a moment in history that will not be forgotten by the many communities directly and indirectly impacted by the violence of that day,” said Staff Sgt. Astrid Bonter. “While I cannot begin to speak on behalf of the communities embroiled in this conflict, I can say without question that your suffering is seen and heard.”

According to police, reports of anti-Semitism increased by more than 60 per cent in 2023 compared to 2022, when there were 29 reports.

“Of the 47 anti-Semitic hate incidents reported to VPD in 2023, 33 occurred after October 7,” police said.

The VPD did not share the exact number of anti-Muslim or west-Asian directed hate crimes. However, it said these events do “absolutely” happen.

“We have absolutely seen an increase in hate-motivated incidents. … the raw data numbers are not as high as we’ve seen in the Jewish community. But those events have absolutely happened,” police said Tuesday.

These incidents include two teens hurling threats at a woman attending a pro-Israel event and a man who repeatedly made antisemetic slurs and gestures inside a Jewish School. There were also several incidents of Islamaphobia, although according to police, there weren’t enough to cause a significant increase.

“We have also investigated incidents impacting the Muslim and West Asian communities,” she said. “These events include incidents of graffiti and hateful commentary written across the walls of a community centre saying ‘All Muslims should die,’ (and) graffiti on public washroom doors, saying ‘I’m going to burn every Palestinian alive.'”

“What I would say about those numbers, is we’re reporting on incidents that are being brought to our attention. And, why we’re here today is to encourage the public from all walks of life from all different communities to come to us and bring us their concerns that relate to hate.”

Bonter points out that each one of these incidents “deeply impacts a person’s sense of belonging and safety in their community.”

Insp. Jeff Neuman shared that protests draw together groups of people with opposing viewpoints, creating “significant volatility due to the emotions involved.”

“We support everyone’s right to peacefully assemble and express their views under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We encourage everyone who protests to do so peacefully, respectfully, and in accordance with the law. But, anyone who breaks the law or puts others’ safety at risk may face arrest and criminal charges,” he said.

According to police data, there were more than 1,000 protests in Vancouver in 2023, with 80 of those taking place after Oct. 7.

These protests have forced the department to incur more than $4 million in overtime costs.

“In total, Vancouver Police have investigated 50 criminal offences connected to the Israel-Hamas war, including assaults against police officers and cases of obstructing police. … VPD has recommended criminal charges in 17 cases, resulting in nine people being charged in connection with 11 different incidents. Six cases are currently being reviewed by Crown counsel.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) says the reports of increased hate in the community are alarming and this should be a call to action for everyone.

“It negatively affects the Jewish community member, how we feel in public, how we feel at work, and how we feel in community spaces,” said Nico Slobinsky, CIJA’s vice-president, Pacific Region. “This should not just be a concern for the Jewish community, but all the people that call Vancouver home.”

The VPD is encouraging those who experience or witness hate to speak up and report it to authorities.

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