Posted: Friday 13th October 2017
Hate Crime Awareness Week starts tomorrow, an important initiative run by Stop Hate UK, which aims to bring people together, stand with those affected by hate crime, and support those who need ongoing support. As the Police and Crime Commissioner leading on Hate Crime nationally, I am very passionate on this pressing issue.
Over the past few years, Forces have vastly improved the way that they record instances of hate crime; which has been hugely important for enabling us to build up the national picture on the issue. However, it is crucial that we also look beyond the statistics, and also consider the profound effect that being the victim of hate crime can have on the individual.
I was the victim of hate crime. When I was living in London in the 80s working as a probation officer, a friend and I were physically attacked and subject to racist abuse whilst walking home at night in Forest Gate. Both of us were deeply shaken by this experience: for a long time afterwards, I felt a pervading sense of vulnerability which I had never experienced before. I felt anxious all the time, both in and outside work. Meanwhile, following the incident I felt tense and stressed whenever I went out socialising: as at the back of my mind I was always conscious that a similar incident could happen again. I did not report the incident to the police at the time. Back then, it just did not feel that the police took hate crime seriously: there seemed to be this attitude that if you were a member of a minority, incidents such as this were an inconvenience that just had to be accepted.
Of course, times are different now: the police have a greater understanding of the dynamics of hate crime, and a variety of initiatives are in place to both help bring perpetrators to justice and provide support to victims.
In July, I wrote to all my fellow Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), asking them to share with me initiatives which are taking place in their areas. Reading the responses received, I was heartened to see the range of schemes which are out there. In Derbyshire, the area which I serve as a Police and Crime Commissioner, officers from the local Safer Neighbourhood Teams carry out reassurance patrols on bus journeys so that people can travel safely. Officers also encourage bus drivers to report any incidents, including hate crime to the police. In Gwent, ‘Policesol’ courses are teaching newcomers to Gwent – whether migrants, refugees or asylum seekers - about policing culture in the UK, including what to do if they are victims of hate crime.
In Sussex and London, people who find themselves victims of hate crime can report incidents on a special feature on the Self-Evident app (available nationwide for the general reporting of crime) - a great example of technology being used to help identify repeat and vulnerable hate crime victims. This reflects commitments made in the Policing Vision 2025, to embrace opportunities presented by developments in technology. Meanwhile, in Northumbria, Safe Reporting Centres provide safe spaces within community locations, where people can report if they have been a victim of hate crime.
Across the country, forces are beginning to not only fight hate crime, but recognise the myriad forms that hate crime can take: in Derbyshire, following our work with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, the Force now recognises, records and monitors alternative subculture as a strand of hate crime motivation. Meanwhile, in Sussex, forces are exploring ways of using hate crime legislation to protect those who may be targeted due to vulnerabilities such as age; whilst in Nottinghamshire and North Yorkshire, the police have begun recognising misogyny in their hate crime policies for incidents where women and girls have been targeted by men and boys, simply because of their gender.
These initiatives reflect the sea-change in attitudes that has taken place in policing regarding hate crime; if the incident that happened to me all those years ago happened to me now, I would not hesitate to report it to the police. I would encourage any individuals who have been the victim of a hate crime to come forward and report it. Meanwhile, I would encourage PCCs, forces and other partner bodies to keep working together to find innovative ways to combat this crime.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
Hardyal Dhindsa is the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) national lead on Hate Crime and the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Derbyshire.
On Sunday the 15th October 2017, Hardyal Dhindsa PCC will give a reading at a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, to launch National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2017. The event will feature speeches from a host of hate crime campaigners including Mark Healey, founder of the 17-24-30 No To Hate Crime campaign, performances by the Diversity choir, and also the lighting of the National Candle of Hope and Remembrance to be lit by a member of MP Jo Cox’s family, in memory of Jo, and all those affected by the London Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Manchester and Finsbury Park mosque attacks.