More than 120 people attended a town hall at the Adas Israel on Nov. 2 to hear from Hamilton Police Services and the Ontario Provincial Police what measures they have put in place to protect the Jewish community from antisemitic hate crimes.
Hamilton Police Chief Frank Bergen, Hate Crime Investigator Fabiano Mendes, and other representatives from the Hamilton Police Services along with representatives from Ontario Provincial Police were among those who sought to reassure the community that the safety and well-being of the Jewish community is at the top of their concerns.
The evening began with Hamilton Jewish Federation president Jason Waxman’s announcement of a $7,500 grant from the Hamilton Community Foundation to help offset the exorbitant costs Federation has been paying on a weekly basis for Hamilton police paid duty officers and cruisers to patrol the city’s Jewish institutions.
Chief Bergen set the tone of the evening with reassurances that the Hamilton Police Services, notwithstanding financial constraints and staffing challenges, has put measures in place to ensure the quickest response possible should there be any kind of serious incident in the Jewish community.
Chief Superintendent Pat Morris, speaking on behalf of the OPP Provincial Operations Intelligence Bureau offered similar reassurances about the intelligence gathering that goes on daily.
The general mood among the attendees was one of appreciation and a measure of relief from what they heard. However, questions posed during the Q&A session made it clear that for some community members, concerns about inadequate security remain high. Those accustomed to seeing a large police presence in their countries of origin in the wake of terrorist threats, for instance, voiced concerns about what they perceive is a thin level of protection in the event of a major security incident.
As to what can be done to prevent such an attack, neither the Hamilton Police nor the OPP had any reassuring words to offer.
The major message all the presenters strived to get across was three-fold. Stay vigilant, report any suspicious activity, and know that things are likely to get much worse before they get better.