When shoppers at a Coquitlam Walmart store heard someone yell racist epithets over a loud speaker, many were shocked and appalled.
It shook many people to the core, including one grandmother who called to complain to the Tri-City News about the incident in the spring of 2019.
That year, there were 11 reported hate crimes in Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam and, in the intervening years, hate crimes reported to Coquitlam RCMP jumped to 17 in 2020 — and 20 in 2021.
Now, Coquitlam RCMP is finding a way to make it easier for people to report hate-motivated incidents online.
In a joint pilot program with North Vancouver RCMP, people experiencing hate-motivated incidents such as threats or insults based on their race, gender or sexual orientation can report the incident to an online reporting tool.
It's the latest effort to make it easier to report an incident; the tool can also be used to report many other crimes (see below for full list).
Coquitlam RCMP spokesperson Const. Deanna Law said hate-motivated incidents are different from hate crimes, which must be called into the Coquitlam RCMP detachment.
An easy way to think of it, she said, is that verbal incidents, such as a threat, slur or insult, are considered hate-motivated incidents and are not defined as a criminal offence.
They are typically an encounter where a person is targeted by another based on motivation of hate or suspected motivation of hate.
This could include
- hate-motivated correspondence
- someone being treated poorly
- hateful speech
- insults toward a person each based on race, gender or sexual orientation
Hate crimes, meanwhile, involve inciting hatred and often involve something physical, such as an assault or damage to property.
These incidents can't be reported online and should be reported to the RCMP at 604-945-1550.
DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO?
Don't worry if you're not sure what kind of incident you are reporting online.
Law said people reporting incidents online will receive prompts and if it's more likely you are reporting a hate crime you will be encouraged to contact the RCMP directly.
While the information gleaned from online reporting will guide police services, Law said police will follow up each online complaint, and as the complaints are monitored daily, a response should be expected promptly.
"The ultimate goal is that reporting these behaviours are important for public safety and we're constantly trying to streamline our police services and keeping with technological advances," Const. Law told the Tri-City News.
Citizens with a valid email address can report hate-motivated incidents in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra.
Below are the incident types that can be reported online:
- Hate-motivated incidents
- Damage or mischief to property under $5,000
- Damage or mischief to a vehicle under $5,000
- Theft of a bicycle under $5,000
- Theft under $5,000
- Theft from a vehicle under $5,000
- Lost property
- Driving complaint,
- Lost or stolen licence plates or decals
To make a report using the online crime-reporting tool, visit report.rcmp.ca.