Jewish groups want hate crimes squad
Richard Kerbaj: The Australian | March 11, 2008
VICTORIAN police are resisting calls by powerful Melbourne Jewish figures to set up a hate crimes squad to tackle the growing number of anti-Semitic attacks.
Police opposed to the idea have accused Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation Commission – which keeps tabs on anti-Semitic violence – of exaggerating the number of attacks to justify greater taxpayer-funded security measures.
It is believed Victoria Police Commissioner Christine Nixon was approached by Jewish leaders to set up the unit, which would play a similar role to a successful program in NSW.
Senior Victoria Police sources said the Jewish community received more attention and security for its functions and events than other religious and ethnic groups. “They already get great coverage,” one source said. “If the Muslim community was to know to what extent, they would go crazy.”
Another source said: “The police hierarchy is forever being bombarded by prominent Jews lobbying to get more resources.”
Jewish leaders, who have stepped up their calls for the squad to be set up at meetings with Victoria Police over the past few weeks, have attacked the force for failing to acknowledge the magnitude of the anti-Semitic violence.
This follows a spate of anti-Semitic incidents, including an attack by a group of footballers on orthodox Jewish father Monachem Vorchheimer as he walked home from a synagogue in 2006.
Bnai Brith Anti-Defamation Commission chairman John Searle accused police of being ignorant to the community’s problems, saying their attitude could lead to an increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks, which were at a record high last year, with 638 incidents recorded nationwide.
“There is no exaggeration of the figures,” he said. “The suggestion that the figures have been ramped up or that they’re bogus in any way just to get a bit more police attention is absurd, and I’m disappointed that such a suggestion would be made.”
Between 1989 and 2005, an average of 85 anti-Semitic incidents was annually recorded in Victoria, according to researcher Jeremy Jones, who compiles figures for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
He said the average incidents rate increased to 185 and 171 in 2006 and last year respectively. The Melbourne-based ADC puts last year’s figures at 119.
Incidents last year included nine physical attacks and 21 “missile attacks”, bottles and eggs thrown at community members. But most of the incidents, 53, were verbal.
The Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council’s executive director Colin Rubenstein also urged police to rethink their position on the proposed unit.
NSW Police appointed a temporary co-ordinator last June to liaise between community groups of various religions and backgrounds.
Police target Jewish attacks
Richard Kerbaj: The Advertiser | March 13, 2008
VICTORIA Police plans to set up a squad to deal specifically with anti-Semitic attacks and other crimes directed at the Jewish community.
Assistant Commissioner Gary Jamieson last night outlined the plan to The Australian, saying the squad would become an extension of an existing intelligence unit.
“We have offered to set up a co-ordinating desk to monitor issues in regards to the Jewish community and have a single centre and point of contact for that,” he said.
The move comes after intense lobbying by Jewish figures.
Mr Jamieson last month met Jewish leaders, who urged him to set up a hate crimes unit, but he told them there was no “empirical evidence” to suggest organised crime being carried out against Jews in Victoria.
He said six officers from the Divisional Intelligence Unit would be assigned to the unit.
Mr Jamieson would not be drawn on accusations by police that groups such as the Anti-Defamation Commission – which tracks anti-Semitic violence – had exaggerated the number of attacks to justify greater taxpayer-funded security measures.
But he said the figures produced by Jewish groups were higher than the ones recorded by police. “We don’t see that there’s a high volume of premeditated and orchestrated issues against the Jewish community,” he said.
Jewish leaders said this week that anti-Semitic violence was at a record high last year, with 638 incidents nationwide and 171 in Victoria.
But Mr Jamieson said: “What we’re seeing is stupid acts by usually intoxicated individuals in Melbourne, (and) while focused on the Jewish community could’ve quite easily been focused on anyone else who happened to be there at the time.”
This follows revelations in The Australian this week that the force was resisting calls by Jewish figures to set up a hate crimes squad to tackle the growing number of anti-Semitic attacks in the community.
And up until yesterday afternoon, the official line from Victoria Police’s media headquarters was that a special unit was not needed.
A similar scheme was set up by NSW police last June to tackle racial discrimination including anti-Semitic attacks.
NSW Detective Superintendent John O’Reilly said the hate crimes initiative played an imperative role in identifying the trends of racial attacks against minority groups and distinguished them from other crimes.
Mr O’Reilly said the program co-ordinator also helped improve the relationship between community groups and local command units.
“It’s been very useful in terms of identifying the trends and being a focal point for the various groups,” he said.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.