The launch of Bedfordshire’s county-wide strategy for tackling hate crime is a major step towards encouraging more victims and witnesses to ‘shout out’ against hate crime, Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins has said.
Bedfordshire’s three community safety partnerships, police force, victim support groups, councils and all the partners who make up the Hate Crime Task Group have developed a unified and far-reaching Hate Crime Strategy. Putting great emphasis on support for victims, it was launched at Bedfordshire Police Headquarters in Kempston today, Tuesday, May 20.
The Commissioner 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.”
He added: “Our message is ‘You are not alone.’ Report any incidents to the police by calling 101 or, if a crime is in progress, 999. We have specially trained officers and community volunteers whose role it is to help you. We are also raising greater awareness of the problems you face and offering free training in our communities so that more support is there.”
Chief Constable Colette Paul was joined by representatives of community and educational groups from all parts of Bedfordshire at the launch.
Ms 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 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 in offensive posters and gestures or bullying at school or work.
Hate crimes are those 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 and put them in fear of leaving their homes.
Mr Martins added: “When incidents are reported the police can – and do – prosecute hate crime in Bedfordshire but first they need to know what is happening.”
Young people in particular can be reluctant to report the crimes for a variety of reasons, including the fear of stigma or being further victimised. The partners will seek to address unfounded concerns through education, and raising awareness among teachers and others to whom young people may turn so that any problems are spotted and support offered.
Progress updates on the strategy will be provided to the Commissioner who, in his Police and Crime Plan, included the need to tackle hate crime “not just because of the harm to victims and their families but also because of the negative impact it has on communities.”
The launch of the strategy will be followed by Bedfordshire Hate Crime Awareness Week, starting on June 9.
Events will include hate crime training in schools and for support services. There will also be awareness sessions for groups that support older people, domestic abuse victims, child poverty, dementia care, and people with mental health issues.