‘We have got to build confidence’ – Stevenage Borough Council to play role in tackling under reported hate crime

Chief Insp Richard Harbon, journalists Jane Fae and Siobhan Mead and Councillor Richard Henry at Ste

Chief Insp Richard Harbon, journalists Jane Fae and Siobhan Mead and Councillor Richard Henry at Stevenage Borough Council's hate crime launch. - Credit: Archant

Five in every six hate crimes never get reported, according to the government statistics – but Stevenage Borough Council is trying to tackle the problem.

From Monday victims will be able to report hate crimes at its customer service centre, either by visiting in person or over the phone.

To coincide with the launch, and as part of National Hate Crime Awareness Week, a seminar involveing councillors and victims was held at the council’s offices yesterday.

Councillor Richard Henry, who led the session, said: “We know there are lots of different types of hate crime and that generally it is under-reported.

“There is still work to do but we’re hoping to increase awareness of what constitutes hate crime and increase reporting now people can use our customer service centre.”

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Hate crime is any offence which targets someone because of hostility or prejudice towards their disability, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

It is hoped that reporting rates will increase by enabling people to come and explain issues they’re having to council officers without ever having to visit a police station.

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One of the speakers was Siobhan Meade, a blind woman who has experienced abuse since moving to Stevenage in December 2013.

She explained how it started with people trying to get her to walk into objects like lampposts and culminated in an attempted mugging.

She said: “People with a disability are people, too, and deserve to be treated with respect.”

In response to the abuse she launched Respect, a campaign which aims to educate people about the reality of living with a disability.

Another speaker was Jane Fae, a transgender journalist who is originally from Stevenage and now lives in Letchworth.

She said: “It is about respect. Things like this send out a clear message to everyone that it is not acceptable to treat anyone like this.”

Chief Insp Richard Harbon, who leads the police team in Stevenage, said: “We have got to build confidence in the community so that people feel confident enough to come forward.

“Initiatives like the council’s will help to do this and are an important step in increasing reporting and raising awareness about the detrimental effects of hate crime.”

For more and how to report hate crime visit www.stevenage.gov.uk or call 01438 242242.

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