The Edmonton Journal reported in January that criminal and non-criminal hateful acts reported to police dropped locally in 2022, but remained higher than pre-pandemic numbers. Police said Black Edmontonians were targeted in at least 30 reported hate-motivated crimes and 65 hate-motivated non-criminal incidents last year, the most of any identifiable community.
The story of Lighthouse began with a critical City Hall bylaw change in 2021 that equated nonverbal forms of communication, like signs and symbols, with hate speech. David Jones, a former police officer and current manager with the city’s community standards and neighbourhoods branch, approached Andreycuk’s team to ask if there was a way technology could help frontline workers track hate symbols, acknowledging many are not easy to recognize.
In what Andreychuk calls “a classic Edmonton story,” the Data Science and Research Team reached out to New York City-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has the world’s largest known hate symbol database, sending two emails with no reply.
On the third try, the ADL finally bit, and thus began a full-fledged partnership.
ADL’s Mark Pitcavage, a leading American expert on extremism, asked him off the bat whether hate symbols are a big enough issue in Edmonton to necessitate this technology.
“The truth is, we didn’t know,” Andreychuk says. “There was no data collection process to determine if there is an issue.”
In November, ADL invited Andreycuk to its conference in New York City to demonstrate Lighthouse and do trial runs with attendees. That’s where the program generated interest from representatives of the federal penitentiary system, and even the FBI. Since then, Andreychuk has had Public Safety Canada and five other Canadian cities express interest in deploying Lighthouse.