Police in Calderdale have vowed to continue to crack down on intolerance as the latest figures show that overall hate crime is up in the district.
Figures obtained by the Halifax Courier via a Freedom of Information request show a rise in the number of hate crimes recorded by West Yorkshire Police in Calderdale over the last three years.
The figures show an overall increase in hate crime in the district - rising from 126 in 2011-12, to 132 in 2012-13, and to 149 in 2013-14.
Although the rise in hate crime - a criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate, in particular motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, religion or faith, race, gender-identity or whether they have a disability - is relatively small in Calderdale, Neighbourhood Policing Support Inspector Allan Raw said the police are striving to make improvements on a daily basis.
He said the district is being continually more robust in tackling hate crime and instilling confidence in victims that they will be listened to and taken seriously.
“We seek to understand the local picture more and don’t want to be complacent. If recorded hate crimes go up, we want it to be because people feel more confident to report hate, which is something we want to promote. If crimes go down we want to ensure that this is not because they are being under-reported.
“We want to ensure that the number of hate crimes goes down but the proportion of them that are reported to the police increases - this is the positive effect on hate crime we aim for. It’s all about getting the message into the community that hate crime is not acceptable, we’re not going to tolerate it and it’s being marginalised.”
To help enforce this stance, Calderdale Police appointed a hate crime coordinator in August - Frank Wood, who is a former police detective now working in a civilian role. He is responsible for liaising with the Calderdale Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel - an independent public body which looks through police investigations involving hate crime to ensure correct procedure has been followed - working with partners organisations, such as Calderdale Council, and checks to see whether officers have complied with force guidelines when investigating hate crimes.
Mr Wood said: “It’s all about getting the public’s confidence so they feel confident in reporting these crimes. It’s about making officers aware of the positive effect the hate crime policy is having, but additionally it’s about marginalising that kind of behaviour. If it’s seen on the streets it’s dealt with because it’s unacceptable.”
Mark Burns Williamson, the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, who has made highlighting and tackling hate crime a priority in the regional Police and Crime Plan 2013-2018, praised the work being done in the Calderdale District.
His comments came at the launch of a new West Yorkshire Police campaign to raise awareness of hate crime, The campaign coincides with National Hate Crime Awareness Week, which started on Saturday, and aims to give people a better understanding of what hate crime is and what they can do about it.
A new online reporting system is being introduced by the force to help encourage victims and witnesses of hate incidents - whether it is verbal, physical or on social media - to report it to the police.
The police are also making improvements to how information about hate incidents is recorded. A number of sub-categories for the recording of faith and disability hate crimes are being introduced to get a better understanding of the impact of national and international events on local communities and improve and target services for victims.
The police also record hate incidents - something that someone has done or said that has a hate tage but doesn’t meet the criteria for a crime.
Mr Burns-Williams aid: “The purpose of this campaign is to raise awareness of hate crime and, secondly, to get confidence in people that if they want to report a hate crime - whether it relates to race, disability or faith - they can do so and be taken seriously.
“Raising awareness of hate crime and how to report it is a key priority in the Police and Crime Plan.
“I want victims and witnesses of hate crime to feel able to come forward and report it to individuals and organisations they trust, because it is not acceptable in any form.
“We all have a responsibility to challenge the attitudes and behaviours that foster hatred because early intervention and education can make a real difference to communities ensuring they are safer and feel safer.”
To report a hate crime or incident call 101 or 999 in an emergency, visit www.westyorkshire.police.uk/hatecrime or www.report-it.org.uk or go to your nearest police station.
For anyone who does not want to speak to the police directly, there are 23 independent Hate Incident Reporting Centres across Calderdale, including any Citizens Advice Bureau, Calderdale Colleges, Pennine Housing 2000 and Calderdale Women’s Centre.