Toronto faces spikes in hate crimes, auto thefts

Mar 28, 2024 | GTA/Local News, News

A troubling trend of rising hate crimes coupled with persistent auto thefts has cast a shadow over Toronto’s public safety landscape.

The latest update provided by Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw in a media release on March 18 paints a concerning picture as hate crimes are up by 93 per cent since the attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023.

Demkiw said police made 24 protest-related arrests, 30 charges and 989 hate crime calls for service during this time.

“While we saw a reduction in calls for service for hate crimes in December and January, we have seen a significant increase in February, with a 67 per cent rise in calls,” he said.

“Of the 84 hate crimes so far in 2024, 56 per cent are antisemitic. Last month saw the highest number of antisemitic occurrences in the last three years,” Demkiw said.

He said there was a disturbing increase in crimes targeting vulnerable communities, with the LGBTQ+ community being the second highest bias category this year followed by anti-Black, anti-Muslim and other racialized groups.

Dean Lobo, a communications specialist at the 519, Canada’s largest LGBTQ+ multi-service agency, said he understands the reasons behind the cause and increase in hate crimes.

“There is homophobia, transphobia, racism, and other forms of discrimination that exist at the systemic level. So, even If we’re talking about numbers, that by itself might not be an accurate number, because so many folks who don’t even report it to the police,” Lobo said.

He said police institutions need to instill an intersectional understanding and uphold the approach to deliver the realities of queer trans people as part of the solutions.

“We have seen in the past that racialized lives tend to be miscounted or sometimes just completely not valued as compared to non-racialized white lives. Understanding where people come from, their lived realities, how just living at an intersection can impact the way they are perceived is important,” Lobo said.

While the surge in hate crimes demands immediate attention, auto thefts have continued to plague Toronto.

Demkiw said more than 12,000 vehicles were stolen in Toronto last year which amounts to 34 vehicles a day, or one every 40 minutes.

“We have had 68 carjackings so far in 2024. That’s a 106 per cent increase compared to the same period last year,” he said.

“We are putting a significant amount of resources to address this citywide, and have seen an escalation of violence, threats and intimidation, where weapons are being used to steal vehicles,” Demkiw said.

To counter this epidemic, the Provincial Carjacking Joint Task Force, co-led with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), was created in September last year.

Demkiw said the task force has arrested 121 suspects, laid 730 charges and recovered 157 stolen vehicles since its inception.

In a news conference in Ottawa last month, Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the federal government is committed to working together with law enforcement and other stakeholders to come up with solutions to the alarming spike in vehicle thefts.

“We took the time together to take into consideration the growing problem of car theft,” LeBlanc said.

“Everywhere in Canada, incidents are becoming more and more violent. This comes from organized crime. We have heard several of our friends in law enforcement talk about the increase in violence,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is looking at ways to bring down insurance costs and reduce rates for owners including offering car incentives to car owners who invest in powerful anti-theft devices.