Police in West Yorkshire have today launched a year-long campaign to raise awareness of hate crime in the county amid fears of a sharp rise in offences in the weeks since the Brexit vote.
The Hate Hurts campaign will run for the next year and aims to highlight how offences can be reported as well as helping people “understand the difference between a hate crime and hate incident”.
It comes after two high profile attacks on Polish people in Leeds in recent months.
In June, a Polish shopkeeper collapsed after allegedly being told to “leave this country” at his store at Bramley Shopping Centre. A man and a woman will appear in court in connection with the incident next month.
And last month a 28-year-old Polish man was hospitalised after being attacked by a group of 20 youths in the Armley area. Nine youths aged 13 to 17 were arrested and bailed.
The Polish embassy said it had been saddened by the attack, which “has been the most serious of over 10 xenophobic incidents experienced by Poles in the north of England” in recent months.
There’s absolutely no place in our communities for this vile behaviour and it will not be tolerated.Mark Burns-Williamson
Earlier this year, the charity Stop Hate said its national helpline had seen a 61 per cent increase in calls in the four weeks after the historic vote to leave the European Union. This resulted in the charity making a 40 per cent increase in referrals to the police.
It said on its website: “Although our report shows several motivations for the reported incidents, those motivated by race showed the biggest increase, followed by reports that were motivated by disability.
“In line with the above, the biggest increases in the types of reported incidences were the use of offensive language, threatening behaviour and/or verbal abuse, as if the result of the vote gave certain individuals the right to air their wholly unacceptable views and that, somehow, these ‘views’ were vindicated by the leave result.”
The West Yorkshire Police campaign launch coincides with national Hate Crime Awareness Week, which starts tomorrow.
Assistant Chief Constable Angela Williams said: “Tackling hate crime is a priority for West Yorkshire Police and supporting victims is at the heart of everything we do. Any hate crime can have a devastating impact on the victim but also has the potential to divide communities.
“We have specially trained officers who can support victims of hate crime and we will continue to do all we can to help people have confidence in reporting hate crime and hate incidents.
“Everyone has a part to play in reporting hate crimes and hate incidents so that we can investigate them and ensure that support and advice is available to those involved and take action where appropriate.”
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner said: “We are doing our upmost, in partnership, to eradicate hate in West Yorkshire. There’s absolutely no place in our communities for this vile behaviour and it will not be tolerated.
“The crux of this campaign is to raise awareness of what these crimes and incidents are, the impact they have on our communities and how to report them.
“If you feel you have been the victim of a hate crime or a hate incident I would urge you to report it through whichever means you feel most comfortable.”
According to the county’s police commissioner, the difference between the a hate crime and hate incident has been an area for confusion.
A hate crime is any criminal offence thought to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s perceived or actual disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.
A hate incident has the same characteristics but relates to non-criminal acts, such as verbal abuse, insults, bullying at school or work or dumping of rubbish outside homes or through letterboxes.