The culprit behind a series of hateful messages spray-painted in the west end last month has yet to be found.
“When there’s nobody to interview, you’ve got some major roadblocks,” said Ottawa Police hate crime unit Det. Gary Locke.
Hintonburg, Westboro and the Wellington West area have been targeted with a flurry of hateful graffiti over the past few months.
Since April 20 — Adolf Hitler’s date of birth — though, things have simmered.
“I’m hoping that we either catch a break, or it stays that way,” said Locke.
On April 19, pedestrians and cyclists were greeted by racist, anti-Semitic messages — deport N—–s, Hail Hitler, and swastikas — scrawled in white paint at the foot of the Champlain Bridge.
There may be more than one person responsible, Locke said.
The most recent Statistics Canada data from 2011 tallies 82 incidents of police-reported hate crime in Ottawa, down from 132 files in 2010.
A new report is expected to be released June 18 with 2012 figures.
Numbers aside, “hate crime happens to the entire community,” said Sgt. Will Hinterberger, pointing out members of Jewish, Black, and LGBTQ groups “traditionally speaking, are the most targeted.”
Immigrants, too, are on the receiving end of such vitriol.
“I’ve seen stuff over time,” said Locke.
“It’s just stupid, right? We all shake our heads at it.”
Misguided youth are often behind hate crime, said Hinterberger, and the profile is almost identical to street gangs.
FBI studies determined “people join hate groups to have a sense of belonging and purpose,” Hinterberger said.
With shared ideology, “they can enhance their prestige within the group,” he said.
Hinterberger differentiates between offensive — deliberately looking for someone who fits the target — and defensive acts, such as reacting to someone of a different ethnicity moving into the neighbourhood.
Though it’s more common in the U.S., some ‘haters,’ as Hinterberger calls them, are bold enough to literally “wear their hate on their sleeve” with tattoos.
The police unit handles 100 cases annually — some files entail violence, but most are graffiti-related.
Hate crime can often be influenced by international events, he added.
After 9/11, “we had a huge spike in anti-Muslim hate,” said Hinterberger.
Regardless of the reasoning, the impact on victims lingers long after graffiti has been removed and files are closed, Locke said.
“It bothers me because they don’t deserve to have this,” said Locke.
“It’s not something they’ve done to someone … they have to suffer because some ignorant soul thinks it’s cool to do so.”
Incidents of hate crime are notoriously under-reported.
Among the barriers to reporting Hinterberger lists: A gay male victim, for instance, may not be “out” and will remain silent out of fear of being exposed.
Ottawa is the most diverse community in Eastern Ontario, Statistics Canada data shows.
“It’s very important that police and the community have a good relationship and there’s trust,” said Hinterberger.
City cops belong to Ontario’s Hate Crime/Extremism Investigative Team, where intelligence is shared among more than a dozen services.
POLICE REPORTED HATE CRIME
1,332 police-reported hate crime incidents in Canada in 2011 — 5% fewer than the number reported in 2010.
52% of police-reported hate crimes in 2011 were motivated by race or ethnicity, while 25% were related to religion and 18% to sexual orientation.
Mischief (50%) was the most commonly reported offence. The majority of hate crimes involved non-violent offences.
— Source: Statistics Canada
ALL ABOUT HATE
Four specific offences are listed as hate crimes in the Criminal Code of Canada:
public incitement of hatred,
wilful promotion of hatred, and
mischief in relation to religious property.
Section 718.2(a)(i) allows for increased penalties when sentencing any criminal offence (such as assault or mischief) where there is evidence the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hatred toward a particular group.
WHAT IS A HATE CRIME?
A criminal offence committed against a person or property motivated by hate/bias or prejudice based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.
Motivated graffiti can be considered a hate crime if it’s:
found in or near a religious insitution or an affiliated community recreation area; or
on commercial property that is affiliated with a community group;
on personal property.
If graffiti doesn’t meet the above-mentioned criteria, contact the city’s Graffiti Management Program to have it reported or removed.
If graffiti is found on a Bell pay phone call 1-800-268-5933, noting the 10-digit phone number marked on the phone.
Contact the Ottawa police call centre at 613-236-1222 ext. 7300 to report hate crime graffiti if it pertains to the above-mentioned criteria.
— Source: Ottawa Police