Stop Hate Crime – Conclusions
This report contains offensive language. These are examples of hate crime that were expressed over the course of this research. This language has not been censored as it is important to understand the nature of this type of crime as it occurs.
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It is clear that hate crime is underreported in North Yorkshire and York – North Yorkshire Police are already aware of this fact. This section will summarise the main findings of the research and explain the most prevalent reasons for underreporting.
Occurrences of race hate crime are more widely reported, but many felt that they ‘put up with’ abuse because it was so common. This research suggested that physical abuse and criminal damage were more likely to feature in reported race hate crime than any other, whereas verbal racism was misunderstood and unlikely to be reported.
High levels of ethnic diversity stem from the MoD bases across the region but these communities are often the most insular, particularly the Ghurkha community. Black and Asian communities do have more solid relationships, but previous experiences have discouraged victims from getting in touch with the police in future. Further, there are strong perceived links between religion and ethnicity: there is a growing anti-Muslim trend which affects those of Pakistani origin. Hate crime is increasingly directed religion, rather than ethnicity for members of this community in particular.
Race hate crime has the potential to ‘normalise’: its relative (recorded) prevalence in comparison to other types of hate crime, suggests that racism remains a problem. Race hate crime is in danger of becoming increasingly violent, based on evidence in incident records and focus group discussions about the physical or ‘more criminal’ nature of crime (e.g. assault and damage to property). Because of the consistency of abuse across all strands of hate crime, there is an added danger that race hate crime might become even worse before it gets better – do ethnic minorities have to be assaulted before they come forward and speak to the police/other agencies?
Incidents are far more prevalent than thought towards people with disabilities. Limits to reporting include lack of awareness of methods of communication: there is very good awareness of emergency 999 contact, but 101 is fairly unknown. Additional specific methods of contact (such as text phones) are not recognised. Some learning or mental disabilities might mean that individuals do not recognise hate crime so easily, or are frightened of the police because of misconceptions. Others, with lifelong disabilities have ‘just got used to’ abuse and bullying and view it as a ‘norm’ because it has always happened to them.
Disability is unique and should be considered a priority. Vulnerability is heightened due to disability, meaning that those at risk are already in a higher category of need. Reporting channels do not cater effectively for disabilities and those that have wider access are not sufficiently known to the public – alternative reporting mechanisms (other than 999 police contact) are failing. Inability to communicate with the police, and the inability of police to communicate with those with very specific needs can establish obstacles that are hard to overcome. The onus for developing accessibility should be on the police, however discussions need to take place between police, disabled groups and other stakeholders to ensure appropriate structures are in place.
Some religions are being targeted because of global events and mass media attention. Muslim men and women are particularly at risk due to perceptions that Islam and extremism are one and the same. Others suggested that an overall lack of understanding of their faith, or focus on a small detail meant that they became targets.
Race and religion can be inextricably linked through preconceptions about faith and ethnicity. This means that some individuals (regardless of their religion) may be more likely to be targets of hate crime. Poor police understanding about different cultures and religions as well as a perceived unwillingness to ask questions can limit police response.
Historically, the police have had negative relationships with LGBT people and there remains a perceived lack of understanding around police and LGBT communities. Although ‘acceptance’ is increasing, particularly for transgender people who have gained high profile role models over the last 2 years, many are still victims of abuse. Developing attitudes of police towards LGBT communities and ‘myth-busting’ could create a more positive 2-way relationship between LGBT people and police officers. Internally, organisational learning about the diverse sexualities of police officers and staff could encourage external learning and engagement.
Reasons for under-reporting
- Fear of repercussions
Individuals from all strands of diversity expressed that the hate crime might get worse if the police came to their house or spoke to the offender: a visible police presence at an address would suggest that the victim had ‘snitched.’ Many didn’t want to get others ‘into trouble’ or ‘locked up.’
This suggests that explanations of police processes might be needed – the majority of verbal hate crime offenders are likely to be offered a disposal other than arrest. Further, plain clothes officers could speak to victims, avoiding drawing attention, but if a police officer has to speak to an offender, they will know that the victim has reported the incident.
- Previous negative experiences with the police
LGBT people in particular expressed historical dissatisfaction with the police, with feelings of mistrust towards officers as a result. Other groups suggested lack of communication (when reporting, or failure to provide updates) could be perceived to be lack of interest in the issue.
Because the police is not an everyday service for most people, it can be difficult to manage expectations – contact is the only way to reverse negative perceptions. By understanding where communication difficulties lie, and ensuring that officers and staff are fully aware of the vulnerabilities and long term effect that hate crime may have, these relationships should develop.
- Low-level: what can the police really do?
Some felt that random, verbal abuse (for example, being shouted from a car) couldn’t be reported to the police because without CCTV or a vehicle registration number, the police wouldn’t realistically be able to do anything. If victims had a disability or the environment meant they were unable to clearly see or hear the offender, they felt that they did not have sufficient information to pass on.
The police need as much detail as available to investigate a crime and the nature of hate crime means that information can sometimes be very limited. However, it is important that occurrences, no matter how vague in detail, are passed on to police or third parties. Further, even if a case cannot be investigated, the victim may still benefit from support services. Officers and partners should be well versed in the possible options for victims of hate crime, regardless of how far the incident can be investigated.
- Inability to contact the police or reporting centres
Language or communication difficulties meant that some individuals were unable to contact the police. There was a lack of awareness of the 101 non-emergency number and accessible methods of contact such as the text phone or emergency SMS service. As a result, crimes were unreported.
There is an onus on the police and partners to ensure that all residents are aware of contact numbers and alternative contact channels such as Stop Hate UK and reporting centres. The ongoing first contact review will make specific recommendations with regard to communities and special needs groups.
- Lack of awareness of what constitutes a hate crime
Discussions around potential crimes or abuse targeted at an individual because of a personal characteristic suggested that there was not sufficient understanding of what a hate crime actually is. Some didn’t report to the police because they ‘didn’t know it was a crime.’ Hate crime that was most underreported was verbal and random, for example ‘you fucking queer, you’re going to die tonight!’ was an example given in a focus group that was not reported, but conversely, incidents of criminal damage, ‘they wrote ‘spacker’ outside my window,’ was reported.
The police definition of hate crime and disability hate crime needs to be consistent across different agencies and partners. There needs to be examples and advice on what a criminal offence might entail, from damage and assault to public order offences.