Toronto seeing rise in antisemitic, Islamophobic hate crimes amid Israel-Hamas war: police chief

By Michael Ranger and Kaitlin Lee

Toronto’s police chief says the city is seeing an alarming trend of antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crimes amid the latest Israel-Hamas war, adding there are likely many more incidents going unreported.

Speaking to reporters while launching Crime Prevention Week on Monday, police chief Myron Demkiw took time to call attention to what he describes as an “alarming trend” of hate-motivated incidents in the city.

“It’s very, very concerning,” Demkiw says. “We have committed an extensive amount of resources … we are going to do everything possible to hold those responsible accountable.”

Last month, Toronto police cited a 132 per cent increase in reported hate crimes in the wake of the war in the Gaza Strip. The war, which began on Oct. 7 after Hamas militants stormed into Israel, has become the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides.

The violence in the Middle East kicked off a wave of demonstrations in the city and has left members of the Jewish and Muslim communities on edge amid heightened public tensions.

Police believe the number of hate-motivated incidents is actually much higher than reported. Demkiw said he is encouraging all residents to contact police if they see any discriminatory or hateful behaviour directed at a specific group.

“We encourage all members of the public, across all communities, to please report every single incident that they see,” he says.

Since the start of the war in Gaza, Toronto police have increased patrol around the city’s cultural centres, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship, and set up two command posts.

Demkiw said Monday that police command posts will remain in North York for the “foreseeable future” as they continue to address safety concerns from the public.

“We will stay there as long as it takes,” Demkiw says.

Demkiw says he will be reporting updated numbers on hate crime statistics at the next police services board meeting.

Toronto police launch Crime Prevention Week

Demkiw was joined by Ontario’s Solicitor General and representatives from the Toronto Police Services Board and Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police to launch Crime Prevention Week.

The annual week promoting crime prevention runs from Nov. 5 to Nov. 11. The theme this year is ‘awareness, engagement, prevention.’

“Toronto Police Service members have fully embraced a culture of risk intervention, and every day our members make referrals to our partner agencies. This collaborative approach is critical to the success of our crime prevention initiatives,” Demkiw said in a statement.

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