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Joint campaign launched on hate crime

Combined efforts are needed to give victims of "hate crimes" in Fenland the confidence to come forward and report them. That's the view of Cambridgeshire Police and other organisations that have come together to raise awareness of the problem and help combat it.

Hate Crime group pic

Opening a joint workshop organised by the police and Fenland District Council at the Rosmini Centre in Wisbech, Fenland Area Commander Mike Hills said: "Unfortunately, many victims are reluctant to come to the police directly, so we need to tackle this issue in partnership.

"Protecting the vulnerable is one of the police's priorities but people must have trust that we will take their reports seriously and do something about them."

A "hate crime" is any incident perceived as being motivated by prejudice or hate connected with the victim's race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. It may include verbal abuse, physical assault, harassment and damage to property.

About 30 people took part in the workshop. They included Councillor David Oliver, FDC's Cabinet member responsible for community safety, and Councillor Kay Mayor, representing Whittlesey Town Council.

Other organisations represented included KLARS (King's Lynn Area Resettlement Support), CHESS (Cambridgeshire Human Rights and Equality Support Service), the Cambridgeshire Victims' Hub, the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Ferry Project, the Rosmini Centre and the Oasis Centre.  

Cllr Oliver said: "The police have made it clear that they take hate crime very seriously. But they can only deal with it effectively if victims and witnesses report it and if others lend their support.

"By reporting incidents when they happen to you, you may be able to prevent them from happening to someone else. You will also help the police understand the extent of hate crime in your local area so they can respond to it better."

Speakers included Detective Inspector Dan Pawson, from Cambridgeshire police, Detective Constable Phil Merriam, hate crime review officer at  Essex Police, Debbie Charles, community safety coordinator at Suffolk County Council and Janie Codona MBE, from One Voice 4 Travellers.

DC Merriam said that although "hate crime" was the official term, he preferred "prejudice-based crime": "It's not always prompted by hatred - it's all about prejudice based on ignorance and stupidity," he said.

In Essex the concerted campaign "Stop the Hate - Report It to Sort It" was beginning to have a positive impact and could provide a useful model for Fenland.

Debbie Charles stressed the need to build confidence and trust between victims, the police and other organisations working with vulnerable groups.

She also highlighted the problem of "mate crime", where so-called friends took advantage of people such as the elderly and disabled.

Anita Grodkiewicz, manager of the Rosmini Centre, agreed that fear of the consequences and mistrust of the police were big factors in people's reluctance to report incidents. They needed to know that action would be taken if they did come forward.

DI Pawson, from Cambridgeshire Police, said people could always report incidents confidentially. "It's important that we are aware of incidents in a particular area or against a particular group of people and to capture them even if we can't follow each of them up."

• To report any hate crime, call 101 (or 999 in an emergency) or visit the True Vision website at www.report-it.org.uk/home