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File photo shows a Vancouver police officer in downtown Vancouver, Aug. 21, 2019.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

Vancouver police have opened 29 cases involving hate-fuelled attacks on people of East Asian descent so far this year compared to just four the same time period last year, part of a disturbing wave of hatred police say is linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputy Chief Constable Laurence Rankin said no charges have been laid in any of these cases, but his investigation division is very close to recommending charges against suspects in six cases. The Vancouver Police Department has stopped investigating 10 other incidents because investigators don’t have any suspects, he added.

The news conference on Friday was the force’s third news conference in the past month about a spike in hate crimes linked to the pandemic. The incidents include a convenience store assault of a 92-year-old East Asian man with dementia in March that made international headlines when police appealed for help identifying the white man who pushed the victim last month.

Deputy Chief Constable Rankin said investigators need to do the legwork necessary to build cases against suspects – even when these perpetrators have been captured on surveillance video and identified by the public.

“As a society, we can sometimes have unrealistic expectations of how investigations can unfold, based on how they’re portrayed on television and in the movies ... video and photographs alone are not enough [to charge a suspect],” he told reporters at a news conference attended by several leaders of Chinese-Canadian cultural organizations.

Police and criminologists acknowledge hate crimes in general go vastly unreported and Deputy Chief Constable Howard Chow said the department is taking the incidents very seriously as well as reaching out to leaders in the Chinese-Canadian community to try to get more people to call his force when they experience or see an incident.

“I’m first generation here in Canada and I can tell you that this thing has really upset me. It’s been offensive listening to some of the comments and knowing all the fine details ... of some of this hatred that I’m watching and listening to,” said Deputy Chief Constable Chow, who is in charge of operations.

He said some Chinese-Canadian people may be reticent to call authorities because of previous experiences with police in other countries and acknowledged that people of colour may mistrust the VPD and not want to escalate a situation by calling 911.

Premier John Horgan denounced the attacks against East Asian British Columbians for the second time this week on Friday, urging people to challenge racist remarks and report hate crimes and racist incidents to police.

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