HATE crime is going unreported because people are either unaware they have been victims or fear they won’t be taken seriously.
The North Worcestershire Hate Incident Partnership is attempting to drive up awareness of the crime in order to encourage victims to find their voice.
Over the last ten years the partnership has supported about 1,300 victims of hate crime, but it is estimated as much as 90 per cent of incidents go unreported. Recent figures show in 2013/14 reports of hate crime in Worcestershire dropped from 339 to 290 compared with the previous 12 months.
Incidents can range from anything from verbal abuse to physical attacks and include homophobic and racist abuse as well as targeting of the disabled.
As part of Hate Crime Awareness Week members of the partnership – which includes the police and Redditch Borough Council – took to the streets of the town centre last Thursday (October 16) to spread the message.
Members of Worcester Theatre Makers performed short pieces based on real incidents of hate crime in the West Mercia area, revolving around homophobia, Facebook bullying and an attack on someone with learning disabilities. Posing as a film crew they also pretended to interview passers-by on their views around hate crime. Similar events were held elsewhere in the county funded through a £3,000 grant from West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner Bill Longmore who attended the Redditch event.
He told the Standard: “When I was a police officer hate crime existed but it was never identified as such. In this day and age there is much more awareness but there’s still too much going on and it’s just not being reported.
“The police take it very seriously and every report of hate crime will be investigated – it’s not a case of saying it’s nothing to do with us or go somewhere else, it’s got to be investigated.
“No-one should have to just accept abuse. People should realise it is a serious crime and the people who are the victims should be reporting it and have the confidence to report it.”
Ken Hazeldene, chair of the partnership, added: “A lot of the time it is about fear or not knowing where to go. As a partnership we work with many organisations not just the police but local authorities, social landlords and victim support. When someone comes to us we allocate a support person that will work with them and that does not necessarily have to be the police.”
Hate crime can be reported in confidence through organisations including the Sandycroft Wellbeing Centre in Smallwood, Redditch Citizens Advice Bureau, the customer service centre at the Town Hall and the police on 101.