As we approach Brexit, the need for Hate Crime Awareness Week (12-19 October) has never been more significant, writes Tahir Idris
ACCORDING to Stop Hate UK, the majority of police forces in England and Wales saw record levels of hate crimes reported to them in the three months directly after the EU referendum.
More than 14,000 hate crimes were reported, with 10 forces reporting more than a 50% increase on the previous three months. In the same period, Stop Hate UK itself recorded a 55% increase in incidents motivated by race and an 80% jump in incidents motivated by religion.
The figures are alarming and saddening, in equal measure.
Our own figures reveal a similar pattern, with cases of hate crime in our neighbourhoods more than doubling since the referendum. While we can’t say with any certainty that the increase can be fully attributed to the referendum, there is no denying it has had an impact.
As the eyes and ears of the community, our anti-social behaviour officers have witnessed first-hand the devastating impact hate crime can have on individuals, families and neighbourhoods.
From threatening behaviour or harassment to assault or damage to property, hate crime is defined as an offence motivated by hostility towards someone based on their disability, race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.
We will not tolerate hate crime and will take action against anybody who commits this kind of anti-social behaviour. This includes legal proceedings which may result in the offender losing their home.
As an example, we recently secured an injunction with power of arrest against a tenant who was victimising a Romanian family, repeatedly telling them they don’t belong in this country. In addition to verbal abuse and threats of violence, he put the family’s life at risk by deliberately blocking the fire exit from their home.
We recognise that some people are reluctant to contact the police directly to report a crime so we would encourage our tenants to open up to us and we can report a crime on their behalf.
By giving victims the opportunity to report crime in familiar surroundings in their own community, rather than going to a police station, which can be intimidating, we are breaking down barriers and providing a victim-led approach.
The police can only prosecute when the law is broken but by reporting hate incidents, the police can work with partners like ourselves to prevent these incidents from escalating and to disperse tension in communities.
Hate crimes hurt and can be confusing and frightening. By reporting them when they happen to you, you may be able to prevent the same thing happening to someone else. You can also help the police understand the extent of hate crime in your area so they can better respond to it.
As both a provider of homes and a major employer, we recognise we have a moral and legal responsibility to embrace diversity and promote equality of opportunity among our colleagues, customers and partners.
One of the ways in which we do this is through Achieving and Harnessing Board Diversity, a pilot programme in partnership with Progress Housing Group and Housing Diversity Network, which aims to boost under-represented groups in positions of governance.
We have also launched a Harnessing Diversity Fund, which provides grants to projects which celebrate equality and diversity in the neighbourhoods in which we operate. In the last 12 months, we have invested £8,590 in community projects including fasting events to celebrate Ramadan in Blackburn and Halifax and Pride events in Salford and Hebden Bridge.
Our Equality & Diversity Pledge states that we want to “promote equality and diversity in relation to our customers … embedded into everyday delivery of services appropriate to the needs of our diverse communities”.
Hate crimes are the antithesis of these values, undermining good relations and shedding a negative light on our differences, rather than bringing us together for the common good, promoting respect and neighbourly behaviour.
By valuing and respecting the contributions of everybody in the diverse communities in which we operate, we aim to foster a culture of mutual respect that enables people to thrive and realise their full potential.
Tahir Idris is equality and diversity manager at Together Housing Group