Toronto: Canadian law enforcement has arrested three people and is looking for a fourth in connection with a series of break-ins and robberies that have targeted places of worship, primarily Hindu temples.
Many of those incidents, including acts of vandalism, have occurred in the Greater Toronto Area, Peel Regional Police said Friday, while releasing the names of three detainees. “Between November 2021 and March 2022, the suspects gained access to buildings, proceeded to withdraw money from donation boxes at the scene, and then fled the area,” the statement said.
The three people identified are Indo-Canadian residents of Brampton, Jagdish Pandher, 39, Gursharnjeet Dhindsa, 31, and Parminder Gill, 42, and they have been charged with disguise with intent and break and enter and commit a criminal act.
A Peel Police spokesperson told the Hindustan Times there had been 13 such episodes in the area, nine of which involved Hindu temples, two each involved Jain temples and gurdwaras.
Investigators are looking for a “fourth known suspect” who has not been named. The investigation is ongoing and “there is no indication that these crimes are motivated by hate,” the statement said. “However, all possible motives will continue to be considered as this investigation progresses,” he added.
The arrests have led to a sense of relief among the region’s Hindu community, as temples have been the main targets during this prolonged period. “Given this situation, there will be some confidence in the community now that they have been arrested,” said Har Bhajan Shastri, a pundit at the Chintpurni Mandir in Brampton. The wave of burglaries had sown fear and anger among the priests and the faithful.
Police officials met with community leaders on February 16, attended by the mayors of Brampton and Mississauga, and one of the meeting attendees said there may have been at least 18 break-ins of this type, although some were not under the jurisdiction of the Peel police, having occurred in the city of Hamilton and even in the locality of Niagara Falls.
Police are working with temples to enhance security, as the spokesperson said: “Members of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office, Divisional Mobilization Unit and the crime prevention team have worked closely with places of worship in our area to provide additional patrols, safety tips and an open line of communication to address concerns. Our Crime Prevention Services team offered building assessments and advice on how to best protect properties.