The number of reported violent hate crimes based on sexual orientation in Vancouver dropped for the first half of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011, says the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).
But those numbers may not tell the full story.
Constable Lindsey Houghton says there were only six alleged assaults that fit hate-crime criteria in the first six months of 2012 — less than half the number recorded in the same period last year. Of the six, half were based on sexual orientation and half on race.
But those numbers reflect only incidents recorded by the VPD. Vancouver’s transit police force, responsible for all crimes committed on buses and SkyTrains in the Lower Mainland, has no record of any gaybashings at all — despite at least one incident reported anonymously to Xtra in an email in June.
The email says a trans man in his 20s, who does not want to be named, was attacked at Waterfront SkyTrain station on May 29. “A group of men (and one encouraging woman) pushed him from behind, punched him in the face then kicked him, yelling homophobic remarks, and possibly some transphobic [remarks],” the email says.
The attack ended when transit security arrived, the email says.
The email also says the incident was reported to police, who told the man that his attack was the fifth example of targeted violence against a sexual minority so far this year.
But spokesperson Anne Drennan tells Xtra that transit police have no report of such an incident.
“If something like this had happened and it was reported, it would be a major case,” Drennan says. “There is no filed report. There would be if our people were involved.”
Houghton referred questions about the alleged incident to transit police since it happened in their jurisdiction.
Xtra requested more information from the person who sent the email but has so far received no reply.
As a new police force, transit officers are only beginning to keep statistics from the reports that are filed, Drennan says.
The VPD has been consistently tracking hate crimes in its jurisdiction and compiling statistics on incidents targeting sexual orientation for about the last five years, Houghton says.
This year’s alleged gaybashings, as recorded by the VPD, include a Feb 19 incident at 50 West Cordova St, a May 12 incident on the Davie Street bus, and a May 29 incident at the PumpJack Pub.
“This fits with historical trends and locations because that’s where the people are,” Houghton says.
Thirteen incidents fit hate-crime criteria in the first six months of 2011, Houghton notes. Of the 13 incidents, eight were allegedly based on sexual orientation, while the rest were allegedly race-based.
Charges have already been laid in two of the three alleged gaybashings this year.
In the Feb 9 incident, officers were called to the Hildon Hotel in the Downtown Eastside. A 24-year-old man alleged that a woman entered his room and called him “faggot” several times. He told her to leave. She refused and punched him in the face, police say.
The victim suffered minor injuries to his upper lip and declined emergency help.
Mendy Lynn Molnar, 40, was charged with one count of assault. She was not previously known to police, Houghton says.
In court Nov 9, Molnar was ordered to stay away from the man for six months. She denied hitting him. She said she left the hotel to get away from the man and when she discovered there was a warrant for her arrest, turned herself in.
“I didn’t hit him,” she told the judge. “I didn’t even go near his room.”
On May 12 at about 7pm, a 27-year-old Delta man was riding a transit bus down Davie Street with a friend. They were sitting at the back of the bus when a man started yelling anti-gay comments to various passengers, including the Delta man, police say.
The Delta man took exception to the comments and stared at the suspect, police say.
When the suspect, a 34-year-old Vancouver man, allegedly raised his fist, the Delta man knocked his hat off. The suspect responded by allegedly punching the Delta man multiple times in the face, police say.
The victim sustained a bloody nose and a bump on his forehead. The file remains open and no charges have been laid yet, Houghton says.
On May 29 at about 10:30pm, police were called to the PumpJack Pub after a report of a man being held down for allegedly biting a customer. Officers arrived and arrested Matthew Donald Winfield, a 23-year-old Salt Spring Island man.
The incident allegedly began when Winfield urinated on the floor of the bathroom and then poured beer on the floor. Police allege that when staff tried to escort Winfield out, he allegedly assaulted them, including biting one of them, and yelled an anti-gay slur.
Winfield was charged with one count each of assault, assault causing bodily harm and mischief.
Houghton says Winfield got a stay of proceedings on the mischief charge and pleaded guilty to assault and assault causing bodily harm. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and eight months probation, Houghton says.
“While the accused made some homophobic remarks after his arrest, there was no evidence establishing any comments of that nature were made during the commission of the offence, nor did the accused say that he had committed the offences because he thought the complainants were gay,” says Criminal Justice Branch spokesperson Neil MacKenzie.
“The evidence did not establish that it was a crime directed at the complainants based on bias, prejudice or hate, and so the court was not asked to consider that as an aggravating factor on sentence.”
Another alleged gaybashing case returns to court in October.
Parminder Singh Peter Bassi and his brother Ravinder Robbie are charged with several counts of assault causing bodily harm in connection with an alleged 2010 attack against a gay couple near their Tinseltown home.
When the case opened in March, Crown prosecutor Kirsten Murphy told Vancouver Provincial Court Judge Raymond Low that homophobic slurs were yelled during the attack that left Peter Regier and David Holtzman with multiple injuries requiring medical attention.
Holtzman died April 9 while on holiday with Regier in Palm Springs.
The case was derailed after contested allegations that one of the Bassi brothers had attempted to intimidate Holtzman in the courthouse cafeteria.
The trial was meant to wrap up March 26, but due to the length of testimony given and two days lost due to legal wrangling over the intimidation allegations, Low requested that another six days be scheduled. The trial is scheduled to resume Oct 1.