A ‘Stop the Hate ’ initiative has been launched today as part of a concerted effort to find new ways to tackle hate crime in Essex.
The launch was marked by a conference in Chelmsford, hosted by Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh, which brought together 220 delegates from a range of partner organisations involved in the field.
The theme of the conference was ‘Report it to Sort it’ and the emphasis was on encouraging people to tell police if they have been a victim of hate crime, whether it be based on race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability.
The focus of the conference was on:
• improving awareness, encouraging reporting and raising confidence
• bullying of and by children and young people
• bullying and hate crime on public transport
During the conference, it was announced that Hate Incident Reporting Centres (HIRCs) will be rolled out across Essex following successful pilot schemes in Southend, Basildon and Chelmsford, which have been running since July.
The aim of these is to make it easier for members of the public to report hate incidents, by providing safe and accessible places for them to go with information.
This will be especially helpful for those who may find it difficult to approach the police, for whatever reason, and would feel more comfortable in a familiar environment.
It is envisaged that a network of HIRCs and Hate Crime Ambassadors will be set up across Essex supported by accredited Essex Police HIRC training in hate crime awareness and report taking. They will be able to engage actively with the wider community in promoting hate crime awareness and work closely with the Essex Police Hate Crime Officer team.
The conference itself was presented by the Strategic Hate Crime Prevention Partnership (SHCPP) and was funded jointly by the Essex Safeguarding Adults Project Board, Southend Council Adult and Community Services and Thurrock Council Community Safety.
The event was stewarded by a team of people with learning disabilities and young people on diversionary programs – as a prime example of how to break down barriers of understanding between different groups.
The conference involved a keynote address from Mike Smith, the former EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) commissioner, Q&A session, presentation of good practice, and delegate-led workshops which focused on:
• Criminal Justice – Considering restorative justice and perpetrator programs.
• Schools and Education – Sharing good practice and considering strategies, ethos and training.
• Community – Promoting diversity, awareness and reporting in the wider community on a sustainable basis.
• Transport – Keeping the public and staff safe on our transport systems.
• Health – Developing professional partnerships.
• Faith – the role of interfaith groups and the responsibility of faith leaders in tackling hate crime.
The hope is that it will lead to a business plan to take forward under the oversight of the SHCPP.
It also saw the launch of the website www.stopthehate.org.ukthat will become the one stop shop for all things hate crime – information, advice, news, and HIRC networking.
Mr Kavanagh said: “The Stop the Hate Conference is a unique opportunity to bring together all those with specialist knowledge of dealing with, and supporting the victims of hate crime, with the aim of finding innovative new ways to tackle the issue.
“It is important that we work together in partnership with others who have expertise in the field, to ensure victims feel they have somewhere to turn, and that they will be dealt with in a sensitive and professional manner.
“It is also important to raise awareness among the wider community – and for everyone to realise that bullying and hate crime will not be tolerated at any level.”
Essex Safeguarding Adult Board chair, Simon Hart, said: “We are very pleased to be able to support this event. Our Safeguarding Adults Project survey last year highlighted that vulnerable people across Essex are both worried about and experiencing hate-related incidents. The Board are therefore committed to ensuring that robust work is underway to look at how we can continue to tackle this issue. This conference is one of a number of projects we are funding to help vulnerable adults feel safer to live in our communities. ”
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said:
“I fully support the ‘Stop the Hate’ initiative being led by Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh, with the close involvement of Essex Safeguarding Adults Project Board, Southend Council Adult and Community Services and Thurrock Council Community Safety.
“One of the aims set out in the Police and Crime Plan is for there to continue to be less crime in Essex so there are fewer victims of crime. However in areas such as hate crime, which is almost certainly under-reported, we must give victims the confidence to speak to police and use the new Hate Incident Reporting Centres. If this means an increase in the amount of hate crime reported and recorded in the short term, then I would regard this as an important step in making it clear that racist, bullying or insulting behaviour is not acceptable.
“’Report it to Sort it’ is the message.”
Councillor Tony Cox, Southend Borough Council’s Executive Councillor for Public Protection, Waste & Transport said: “Hate crime and bullying of any sort is just not acceptable in our town or our county, so it needs reporting and sorting, especially as it can take many forms and happen to anyone. I believe this initiative will go a long way towards tackling these dreadful crimes and the criminals who commit them.”
Cllr Angie Gaywood, Thurrock Council’s public protection cabinet member, said: “Hate crime is a scourge on our society and anything that is done to tackle it and make it easier to report is important.
“You have to report it to sort it whatever the crime, but there can be extra issues around reporting hate crime and it’s good to see we are working together to simplify the process.”
Cllr Terri Sargent, Basildon Council’s cabinet member for community, said: “Basildon Council is proud to be backing this campaign. We are committed to helping to raise awareness of hate crime and working together to encourage people to report it. There is no place for this kind of behaviour in our town and this initiative highlights the steps that can be taken to tackle it.”
A spokeswoman for Castle Point Association of Voluntary Services added: “‘Castle Point Association of Voluntary Services and the Be Safer Project are very pleased to support Essex Police in the roll out of the HIRC program across Essex. This is exciting and innovative partnership working which we know will provide a valuable additional resource to encourage anyone experiencing hate incidents or hate crime to have more confidence in reporting.’
The 50-year-old, who does not wish to be named, has arthritis and has to rely on his mobility scooter and a walking stick to get about.
His case highlights the fact that hate crime can come in a variety of forms be it race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability.
He had been returning from a trip to the shops in Clacton, in September 2012, when two strangers began shouting abuse across the street at him, based on his disability.
He went to remonstrate with them only to be knocked to the ground and repeatedly punched and kicked.
Remembering the attack, he said: “I couldn’t retaliate because of my disability, a few years ago I could have put up a fight, but not now.
“I felt so useless after the attack, I couldn’t stop crying and I was bruised all over very, very badly.”
He was initially nervous about reporting the matter, but his wife encouraged him to call police. This resulted in one of the men being caught and subsequently receiving a prison sentence.
Speaking of the whole experience with Essex Police, he said: “I was being informed all the time and kept up to date, and I felt I was being taken seriously, I really did”.
“If it happened to me again I would report it, no doubt about it. It was the first time I had been in touch with the police in my life, but I felt very comfortable.”
He also stressed that other victims of hate crime should take heed of the Essex Police message – ‘Report it to Sort it.’
He said: “I’d tell anyone else to report it straight away, because I don’t think this sort of thing should be allowed to go on. Report it straight away, don’t be frightened, because the support is there.”