Tuesday, July 13, 2010

City Safe - Hate Crime Forum

What is a hate crime? Wikipedia says Hate crimes (also known as bias-motivated crimes) occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity. It is often committed by strangers in the street.

As part of my new role as ACM (Assistant Cabinet Member) for Community Safety, I have agreed to take day to day political management of the Hate Crime Policy and with it the partnership work essential to the Hate Crime Forum. I attended my first forum meeting last week which was fascinating, seeing how all the links are made between the police, victim support, housing associations, fire service etc when a hate crime is committed.

Councillor Pam Thomas gave a really fascinating and extremely disturbing presentation about hate crime targeted at people with disability and in particular focussed on hate crime targeting people who are particularly vulnerable or who have learning disabilities. I am reminded of David Gard of Jubilee Drive, Kensington Fields murdered at home, and a man sleeping in a park in Kirkdale, set on fire by a group of youths. Other notable cases of vulnerable people who have been victim of hate crimes would include Brent Martin, Steven Hoskin and Fiona Pilkington. There are many more and Pam talked about some of them to us. She also made the point that unlike most other hate crimes, those targeted at the disabled are more likely to be committed in their own homes by befrienders than by strangers. She reminded us that Hitler began his systematic genocide with the murder of “the unfit”, at least 60,000 children and adults killed by Carbon Monoxide because they had mental or physical disability. The presentation was met with a stunned silence as we reflected on the levels of cruelty and hate that still occur and which go unrecorded so often.

We talked about how we could do more about hate crime against people with disabilities and we will be discussing it at the policy away day next month.

Next we had an interesting debate about how we could make more use of third party reporting. Sometimes a victim of a hate crime does not wish the crime to be investigated, perhaps they are scared, sometimes they don’t want to tell someone in officialdom, but they might be prepared to tell others who could report it on their behalf. Sometimes, particularly where hate crime is committed against people who have come from other countries, they may not want to talk to the police because where they come from the police are aggressors. We are going to investigate setting up a pilot project with local churches in the Kensington area to see whether pastors, vicars and priests might be in encouraged to act as third party reporting centres, they are very much more likely to hear about hate crime being committed.

What is really important is that we capture the detail of a hate crime so that we can assess where there are patterns and then work out how we can begin to alleviate some of that.

So if there is a pattern of women in Muslim dress being attacked in a certain area, or people with learning disabilities in another, we can be alert to that and start to address it. What we do know is that hate crime goes unreported much of the time so we need to work on methods to capture it more fully.

It is an extremely serious area and I am anxious to play my part in helping to address it.


Anonymous said...

This is great Louise we all have these problems in our wards why were we not invited to this forum.

Louise Baldock said...

Hi Anon, it is an inter-agency forum, the people present are officers of one organisation or another, they are carrying out the work on the ground. I was there because our approach to Hate Crime is one of my responsibilities as Assistant Cabinet Member, and Pam was there wearing another hat, as a professional in this field.
I have asked that we look at rolling some training for councillors in reporting hate crime and monitoring tensions and we will be discussing this at the forum's away day next month. If you want to input directly to that then send me an email. Cheers

scouseboy said...

I know from personal experience how bad hate crime is. My son, who lives with me, has learning difficulties, and from most peoples viewpoint could be described as "different" or "eccentric."
I have helped my son find the strength to rise up against some very cruel taunts from his young peers when he was growing up. He rose above the taunts, and faced them in a very humbling way. My son is now 25, and he is a model citizen. I am extremely proud of him.