Action over ordeal of hate crime 
victims who suffer in silence

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A CRACKDOWN on hate crimes across England’s largest county is being intensified after senior police admitted as many as two-thirds of offences are going unreported as victims suffer in silence.

A review has been launched by North Yorkshire Police to streamline its operations and ensure links are improved with communities across the county after concerns were raised that the majority of hate crimes are going unnoticed.

A network of new so-called signposting centres is being piloted in several districts in North Yorkshire to act as a first point of contact for anyone who has been targeted because of their race, religion, sexuality or disability.

Assistant Chief Constable Iain Spittal, who is responsible for the force’s operational policing, told the Yorkshire Post that national research had shown as many as 70 per cent of hate crimes go unreported.

There were 228 reported hate crime incidents in North Yorkshire last year, which represented a fall of about 30 offences on the previous 12 months.

Mr Spittal acknowledged, however, that there is a need to collate more intelligence on the offences to gain a clearer understanding of the problems which are faced by victims.

“My desire is to reduce harm in communities across North Yorkshire, but if we do not have a clear understanding of what is going on then we cannot solve the problems,” he said.

“I do not take any reassurance from the fact that the number of offences has reduced. We need more people to come forward to give us a better understanding of what they are having to endure.”

Closer links are being forged by the police with other public bodies such as councils to share information and deal more effectively with hate crimes. The force has also worked with the charity Mencap and disabled victims who have recorded training videos and discussed their experiences of hate crimes with officers.

The county-wide review was launched after it emerged an existing network of reporting centres was not operating as effectively as police officers had hoped.

Nine new reporting centres, which are based in libraries, a citizens’ advice bureau and children’s centres, were officially unveiled in the Selby district on Wednesday. They will now operate alongside 66 signposting centres in the district which will direct victims to seek help.

The trials of the signposting centres are also being staged in Hambleton, Richmondshire and York, and they will be rolled out across the county if the pilot proves to be a success.

Mr Spittal said: “People are often having to suffer abuse on such a regular basis that they are accepting it as part of their daily lives. That cannot be right, and we are committed to doing all we can to tackle offences.”

Most offences are linked to drunken foul-mouthed rants at taxi drivers and takeaway workers in towns and cities, although Mr Spittal confirmed hate crimes have been committed in North Yorkshire’s rural communities as well.

While physical violence is rare, the force has dealt with at least two serious attacks in the past decade which left both victims needing hospital treatment. One was linked to racist abuse, while the other was thought to be homophobic.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in July last year that a strategy to combat hate crimes in York was being overhauled to prevent offences escalating amid a dramatic increase in ethnic minorities.

York is one of Britain’s fastest growing cities and the decision has been taken to review the strategy due to the rapidly changing demographics to prevent mounting racial tensions.

The first document was launched by York Council in January 2008, but the city has witnessed a massive population boom in the intervening four years. York’s population has increased by nine per cent since 2001 and now stands at 202,000.

paul.jeeves@ypn.co.uk