Hate crime week across Hertfordshire aims to shine a spotlight on under-reported issue affecting the most vulnerable

Hate crime

Hate crime - Credit: Archant

‘Don’t ignore it – report it’ That’s the message which crime and care teams promoting Hertfordshire Hate Crime Awareness Week want to get across.

The awareness campaign runs from today until Friday, and Hertfordshire’s Stevenage-based community safety unit has organised a timetable of events to shine a spotlight on the issue.

A hate crime is an offence in which a victim is perceived to be targeted because of their religion, race, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity.

A conference at the Hertfordshire Development Centre in Stevenage today - which is also Abuse Against Elders Awareness Day - kicked off the programme, which is also supported by the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Adults board and coincides with national charity Mencap’s Learning Disability Awareness Week.

The conference brought together partner organisations and agencies from across Hertfordshire. Speakers included representatives from central government, local police, national charities, and the Crown Prosecution Service.

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The event also provided an opportunity to hear from the Centre of Hate Crime Studies at the University of Leicestershire. The week also includes the launch of a Hertfordshire specific app providing advice, support and opportunity to report a hate crime.

The Hertfordshire Hate Crime Promise for 2015, which includes a pledge for people to sign, is also being launched this week.

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Assistant chief constable Bill Jephson said: “Hate crimes are despicable offences. Those who are victims of hate crimes often do not know how to report it.

“Awareness weeks such as this are needed to inform people that we are here for them and also to encourage carers and members of the public to also spot the signs.

We have seen an increase in reporting of these offences however we cannot be complacent and I am in no doubt that these are still under-reported. “So please don’t ignore it – report it.”

Helen Whitehead of the community safety unit said: “We are very excited about the week, and raising awareness of hate crime.

“While major steps have been taken to raise awareness of hate crime both locally and nationally these crimes remain under-reported. This week is not only aimed at bringing agencies more closely together to ensure those effected in Hertfordshire are better protected, it is also about raising awareness to the public.”

Third party reporting centres – alternative places other than the police for victims to report - are already operating across Hertfordshire. The week will highlight further such developments, in particular one centre – Jackie’s Drop In for adults with learning difficulties in Letchworth.

Community safety unit programme manager Sarah Taylor said: “Despite us seeing an increase in the reporting of these incidents it remains a very under-reported crime. The only way we can change this is by continuing to make the public and partner agencies aware of hate crime and reassuring victims, carers families and friends that help is available.”

Hertfordshire’s police and crime commissioner David Lloyd said: “Raising awareness about hate crime is extremely important. More often than not those who are suffering from hate crime are often too frightened or intimidated to come forward. This week of awareness is not only about encouraging victims to come forward but for those around them who believe a person may be suffering. The message is clear: “Don’t ignore it – report it”

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