Victims of hate crime are being urged to speak out.
Bedfordshire’s police, community safety partnerships, victim support groups and councils have joined forces to create the Hate Crime Task Group, which was launched at Beds Police’s headquarters in Kempston on Tuesday.
Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins said: “This is the first time that we have set out to work together in this way.
“We know that there is significant under-reporting of hate crime incidents, which we want to tackle through raising awareness and providing reassurance to victims that they should not suffer in silence.
“National studies show that you can multiply by four the number of hate crimes that are actually reported. We need to change that.
“We also want to prevent incidents of hate crime by working together in schools.”
There are specially trained officers and community volunteers to deal with hate crime, he added.
During the launch two guest speakers talked about different types of hate crime, providing support for victims and the experiences of transgender people who have suffered from hate crime.
There was also a victim’s view of hate crime and how it affects people’s lives.
Hate crime and hate incidents include physical attacks to someone or their property; threats such as offensive letters or phone calls and verbal abuse or insults such as offensive posters and gestures or bullying at school or work.
Hate Crimes motivated by prejudice, bigotry or intolerance on the grounds of disability, gender identity, race and ethnicity, religion or belief and sexual orientation.
The various organisations working together to tackle Hate Crimes are urging victims and witnesses to come forward about incidents which can seriously impact on victims’ quality of life.
Chief constable Colette Paul said: “I am delighted to be launching this important piece of work.
“This is a pugnacious crime that really impacts on people’s lives.
“It is the responsibility of all of us not only to support and encourage people to report it but also to challenge this poor behaviour.”
Hate crimes can be reported on police’s usual 101 non-emergency number or on 999 as appropriate.