Agencies meet to tackle hate crime

29 Sep 2017

Tackling hate crime against Muslims, the disabled and transgender people was the focus of a conference hosted by Stevenage’s SoSafe Community Safety Partnership this week.

The SoSafe partnership brings together Stevenage Borough Council, police, charities and support groups. It called the conference to show tackling hate crime is a priority, discuss ways to cut the incidence and empower victims.

Hate crime can include attacks, abuse or threats and victims often do not report incidents to the police. Since 2016, the number of recorded hate crimes across Hertfordshire has increased by 30%, with a spike after terrorist attacks in England this year.

The conference drew on examples of incidents against people with disabilities, transgender people and the Muslim community. Speakers included Iman Abou Atta the Director of Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Abuse) and Madison Webb of Transition Counselling.

Councillor Jackie Hollywell, Stevenage Borough Council Executive Member for Communities, Community Safety and Equality, said: “This is a crime that can divide communities and leave people afraid to go out. It is important to make it clear that the police and other agencies want to hear from victims. We are all working together to tackle it.

“In Stevenage we want to live together peacefully and in harmony, and by tackling hate crime we hope we can go some way to achieve this.”

Siobhan Meade, who is blind, set up the Respect Campaign after being harassed and abused by young people. She told the conference: “There were lots of horrible incidents with people trying to trip me up or guide me into lampposts. It almost broke me, but Hertfordshire Police were fantastic. I strongly recommend anyone to report it.”

Angela Westwood, Hate Crime Officer for Hertfordshire Constabulary, said: “Hate crimes are often crimes like criminal damage or assaults that the public would expect the police to investigate. The only difference is that they are crimes motivated by prejudice against the victim because of their disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

“This will not be tolerated in Stevenage and this conference shows how local organisations are coming together to tackle it.”

If people see a hate crime or are a victim themselves, they should contact the police. They can also pass information on through a third party including the council Customer Service Centre or Citizens Advice.

Hertfordshire Beacon victim care centre have specially trained staff who offer free practical help and emotional support. Call 03000 115555 or visit the Hertfordshire Beacon website.