Posted: Thursday 19th July 2018
Last week I hosted a major conference for Durham and Darlington, concentrating on how we can address hate crime. Well over a hundred people from a wide range of charities, community groups and public service providers were working together to develop new ways to combat hate crime. During the event, some people who have experienced hate told the audience about how it affected them. Those stories had real impact; it can’t have been easy telling them.
Hate crimes are different from many other types of crime and incidents because they are so personal. People are victimised because of who they are, and not because of anything they’ve done. That’s why it’s always been a priority for me, in my Police, Crime and Victims’ Plan.
The number of hate crimes which are reported to Durham Constabulary has increased by about a quarter over the past four years. Maybe that’s because victims are more confident than they used to be that the Police will take their issues seriously. However, we believe that incidents of hate, and especially disability-related incidents, are still under-reported and there aren’t enough prosecutions.
In recent years, the Durham Constabulary have taken steps to raise awareness of hate crime, to help ensure that reporting increases. They have also introduced Community Cohesion Officers, and better training for all Police Officers so that they identify hate crime when they see it.
Five years ago I set up the Joint Hate Crime Action Group. It’s a group of people working in the public and community sectors, and it has overseen a number of projects to address hate crime. There’s much more to do, however. I have asked the Group to come up with an Action Plan for us to work together to tackle hate crime, increase reporting, and bring more offenders to justice.
One theme from the conference was the importance of helping communities to live together in a harmonious, cohesive way. That should make hate crime less prevalent - something which I want all of the organisations I work with to prioritise.