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There’s some great work being done to stop the hate

In her latest blog, Alison talks about National Hate Crime Awareness Week and encourages everyone to report hate crime.

A year ago I used this blog to promote national Hate Crime Awareness Week and I make no apologies for using the space to bring it to readers’ attention once again.

Why? Because during that time, not only has Devon and Cornwall seen an increase in reported hate incidents, we have also seen some absolutely brilliant police work to bring to justice those who deal in hate and I want to highlight the outstanding efforts made by police and partners to work with the targets of such vile behaviour.

Throughout the year my team and I work very closely with our police colleagues to ensure that contact with communities and individuals who are most likely to be victims of hate.

We do this for a number of reasons - firstly, in my role as the public’s link to policing, to ensure that those communities know the whole criminal justice system is there to support them, believe them and do everything they can to protect them – and secondly, in my scrutiny role, to make sure the police are comprehensive in their dealings with vulnerable groups.

I completely accept that this is not an easy task.

Historically, many diverse communities held a deep mistrust of the police – some still do – but the fact that reports of hate crime rose by 11 per cent last year in Devon and Cornwall shows me that those barriers are being broken down.

Like many crime types an increase in reported incidents is in some ways a positive development because it indicates that more victims have greater confidence to call the authorities and seek help.

A lot of the police’s most important work happens within communities, breaking down barriers and increasing their confidence to report things that are happening to them.

In Devon and Cornwall this confidence building is often undertaken by the force’s diverse communities team, small groups of officers who work tireless to support people who may be targeted because of their race or ethnicity, their religion or beliefs, their sexual orientation disability or because they are transgender.

Part of the team’s work is to support very public facing celebrations of diversity like the Pride events in Exeter, Newquay, Plymouth, Exmouth and Totnes, cultural festivals like Exeter and Plymouth Respect, North Devon Diversity and Torbay’s Into The Mix and Blue Light Days in Newton Abbot, Wadebridge and Plymouth for those with learning disability.

But so much more work goes on out of the public eye – one-to-one or group support is offered to many of the 1,859 victims of hate crime in 2018/19.

Quite rightly most of these will never be discussed in the public domain but one example is Operation Merida, where a gang of travelling, organised criminals were targeting the houses of restaurant owners, particularly those from south Asian communities.

The operation focussed on a string of burglaries which took place at irregular intervals over the course of 2016 and 2017 - and the police found it difficult to break down boundaries between themselves and the affected communities so they could deliver effective advice and help the householders keep themselves safe.

But over the course of 2018 Plymouth’s diverse communities team worked closely with the South Asian Society, a body which represents all people who hail from that area of the world regardless of faith, to build trust to a level that officers were able to get over messages about better security.

The result was that there were no crimes registered under the Op Merida banner in 2018 and it helped to build a positive and supportive relationship between the community and the force which continues to develop. So the message is clear - if you are a victim of hate crime, or if you know somebody who has been, then do not be silent.

The police will listen to you, you will be believed and the crimes committed against you will be investigated.

But that can only happen if you take the first step and report the crime, or find a way that you are comfortable for it to be reported.

Please, don’t let the perpetrators of hate crime get away with it any longer.

You can find out more about third party reporting on Devon and Cornwall Police's website.

If you are in immediate danger or feel threated you must call 999 or if you are a victim of hate but not in immediate danger you can report it online: www.dc.police.uk/reportcrime

If you don’t want to speak to the police you can get help from Stop Hate UK online at www.stophateuk.org or via the 24 hour helpline: 0800 138 1625

Alison Hernandez