Disabled people in West Yorkshire have reported more hate crimes than anywhere else in England and Wales, a charity has revealed.
Now, to mark Hate Crime Awareness Week, police are urging anyone who falls victim to abuse, violence or threats because of who they are to come forward and help prevent it happening to others.
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson said crimes directed at people because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other characteristics could “have a devastating impact on the victim”.
She said: “If you have experienced hate crime or an incident then please report it in any way you feel comfortable. By the police being made aware of an incident, we can deal with it and potentially prevent the same thing happening to someone else.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said the week was “a great opportunity to stand together with our communities and reject hate and intolerance”.
There were more than 500 ‘disability hate crimes’ recorded by West Yorkshire Police in 2017/18, including violence, arson and criminal damage, figures obtained by the charity United Response showed, a higher number than any other police force area.
But the charity believes the problem is still under-reported and is calling on more victims to come forward.
It said some people with learning disabilities, such as Down’s syndrome or autism, may not recognise abuse as a hate crime or may lack the confidence to report it to the authorities.
Joanne Silkstone, United Response hate crime lead, said: “It beggars belief that that there are people out there who are targeting some of West Yorkshire’s most vulnerable people and doing them harm.
“This is unacceptable and we all must do everything we can to empower those who suffer this type of appalling abuse and discrimination to speak out.
“Victims must know that they need not suffer in silence.”
A spokesperson for West Yorkshire Police said: “The force has made 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.
“Recent publicity may also have encouraged victims of hate incidents and crimes to come forward and report their experience to the police.”