Peel Regional Police have launched a hotline to report hate crimes against gay and lesbian people.
Inspector Brian Cryderman, who heads up Peel’s Diversity Relations Unit and who developed the line, says he was worried that LGBT residents in Peel region might not be contacting police to report hate crimes.
“With hate crimes generally we’re concerned that there are incidents that go unreported,” he says. “We wanted to establish a comfort level. That was the impetus, for people to be able to come forward.
“We wanted to make sure that LGBT people are being reached. Other groups — Muslims, Sikhs, the Jewish community — are organized and they assured me that hate crimes are being reported. I wasn’t sure that was really true for the LGBT community, that they really believed we were interested in investigating.”
The hotline — which was launched Aug 28 — is a 24-hour taped line, which allows callers to leave messages. Cryderman stresses that people should call 911 to report any emergencies.
“Our guarantee is if you phone and leave a message one of our officers will contact you within 24 hours,” says Cryderman.
Peel’s Diversity Relations Unit has four officers, and Cryderman says each division in Peel has its own hate crimes coordinator.
Cryderman says he came up with the idea about two months ago, but that it wasn’t in response to any particular incident.
“It looks like something specific and horrible has happened but it hasn’t,” he says. “Within Peel the level of hate crimes is pretty low. We’re trying to stay on the good side of things. The likelihood is that more hate crimes will be reported now, which may make it look like there’s an increase.”
Cryderman says he’s happy to hear of any homophobic incidents, but that not all can be classified as crimes.
“To speak of the obvious, someone pushing you around or striking you and they’re yelling at you about your sexual orientation, that’s a hate crime,” he says. “The most common hate crimes are what we call mischief — people spraypainting on your property and making sure you know it’s because of how you look or your religion or your sexual orientation.
“With some regret, if you’re walking down the street and someone says something nasty to you about your sexuality, that’s not a hate crime. We would classify that as a hate incident. But we do want to hear about it and talk to those individuals.”
Cryderman says the police can also provide aid to victims of hate crimes.
“We have a very sophisticated victim services unit that we work closely with,” he says.
Cryderman says the hotline had not been used to report any crimes as of Xtra’s press deadline.
“We’ve had some calls from community members calling us and congratulating us,” he says. “We haven’t had any reports of hate crimes yet.”
Sue Slean, the co-chair of the Pride Committee of Peel, says the hotline sends a very positive message.
“It shows the police are onside that LGBT members deserve to be treated as well as anybody else in the area, and if there are hate crimes, they’ll respond to them.”
Slean agrees that Peel doesn’t have many hate crimes.
“I’ve only ever heard of one myself,” she says, “but just because there’s not an epidemic doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eliminate it completely.”The number for the Peel LGBT hate crime hotline is (905) 456-5905.