This week is National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2015. During the week we will be promoting our campaign aimed at addressing the underreporting of hate crime. The theme of the campaign is ‘Being yourself is not a crime: Hate crime is’.
We’ve seen in other areas of crime, such as sexual offences and domestic violence, victims have gained more confidence in coming forward to report their ordeal and as such we are able to bring more criminals to justice. We are aiming to achieve the same with hate crime.
Over the past few years, I have no doubt that we have become more tolerant as a society. However, there is still a minority of people who think that victimising people because of who they are is acceptable and it is a sad fact that on a national level hate crimes are massively underreported, an issue we are trying to address with this campaign.
People often ask why hate crimes should be treated differently from other crimes. Why should a crime be treated differently because hatred for a person’s or people’s differences is an aggravating factor? A major factor is that more often than not, people are targeted for this treatment because of something personal about them. It is often something they can’t or don’t want to change.
When you read about hate crimes in the media these tend to be the most extreme cases and thankfully these are few and far between. You don’t often hear about what may be considered ‘lower level’ hate crime that some people are tolerating on a day-to-day basis.
The unfortunate fact is that hate crime has become a part of daily life for some people. This has a huge impact on these individuals and the wider community and this is why I think it is important that hate crimes are treated seriously and we ensure we tackle this crime type aggressively.
This is not to say that other types of crime aren’t as serious or that we take them any less seriously. It’s just that I firmly believe that the underlying prejudice and intolerance behind hate crimes has a deep impact upon society and we need to tackle it head on.
There are lots of questions about people who commit hate crimes: Do they fully understand what they are doing? Do they do it out of ignorance? Do they consider how the recipient of their treatment feels? Do they ask themselves how they would feel if it was one of their relatives or friends who was being victimised?
I believe it is just a minority of people who are responsible for these offences and this is why it is important that recipients of this treatment report their ordeal and give us the opportunity to investigate. It is important that victims remember if someone is victimising them, the chances are they are doing it to other people too.
If you are or have been a victim of hate crime, take the decision today that you are no longer going to put up with it. You don’t have to tolerate it; we certainly won’t tolerate it. Make sure you report it.
Chief Constable Martin Jelley