West Yorkshire has been revealed as the worst place for disability hate crime offences, shocking new figures show.
There were a total of 818 disability hate crimes recorded in the region during 2018/19 - the highest in England and Wales. statistics obtained by charity United Response show.
This is a rise of 53 per cent from the previous 12 months and an even bigger increase of 156 per cent on the 319 crimes recorded in 2016/17.
Almost half (395) of last year’s crimes were classified as ‘violence against the person’ - more than any other single type of crime in the area and up considerably from the year before.
These crimes include assault, harassment, stalking and malicious communications towards a victim.
Public order offences remained high for the second year running with 314 separate incidents.
Learning disability charity United Response’s national investigation comes ahead of National Disability Hate Crime Awareness Week, which starts on Saturday.
The charity submitted Freedom of Information requests to 45 police forces across England and Wales, 34 of which responded with disability hate crime incident figures.
The FOIs also sought figures on prosecution or charge rates for disability hate crimes, as well as repeat offender frequency
The full investigation showed that fewer people are being charged or prosecuted for disability hate crimes across England and Wales despite continued rises in reports.
United Response hate crime coordinator Joanne Silkestone said: “Just as last year, these figures are deeply worrying. The hard facts are that more and more people with learning disabilities or autism are being subjected to criminal harm and seemingly a smaller proportion of those responsible are being given the punishment they deserve.”
Responding to the figures, West Yorkshire Police, Superintendent Richard Close said: “West Yorkshire is home to a diverse population, with people from all faiths, backgrounds and disabilities. Residents should be free to live their lives without fear, hatred or intolerance and there is no excuse for such behaviour. We are committed to ensuring that the most vulnerable are safe and feel reassured.
“Albeit, any increase of crime is a concern, it also represents confidence in our reporting systems and supports the fact that we have continued to raise awareness through ongoing publicity campaigns and engagement.
“An element of the rise can be attributed to our high standards in crime recording, we are one of only four Forces to be classed as ‘Outstanding’ for crime data integrity, which has led to an increase in all crime types, as our ambition is to be truly victim focused.
“We work closely with Hate Incident Reporting Centres for third party or anonymous reports, encouraging more people to come forward so we understand the impact and true picture within the county.
“After a significant increase over the last four years, In the year 2018/19, we recorded around two hate incidents per day associated with a disability and this position has stabilised during 2019.
“We are now focusing more on outcomes to ensure that those people who are a victim of a crime receive the best service possible and offender behaviour is changed.
“In particular, we employ specialist Hate Crime Coordinators across districts in order to assist investigating officers in identifying perpetrators, providing after care support as well as engaging with local communities.
“We recognise that there is still further work to do and have created a robust action plan identifying areas for improvement from inspections and guidance, as well as best practice from other Forces.
“Similarly, we are working closely with our partners, who have an equal responsibility to our communities.”