MEMBERS of minority groups were urged not to suffer in silence during a community safety event.
Around 60 people attended the event, held at St Joseph’s Church Hall, in Hartlepool, as community chiefs described ways in which help is available to ensure hate crimes do not go un-reported.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright spoke at the event, as well as Cleveland Police officials and representatives from the Hartlepool Anti-Social Behaviour Unit and Victim Support.
The seminar was organised by Jude Anyanwu, of black and ethnic minority group Ohanaezi.
Jude urged people not to ignore any hate crime-related incidents or anti-social behaviour and said: “If you stand up to what you believe, the police are there to give you help and support.
“Our aim is to integrate the black and ethnic minority community into the wider community of Hartlepool.
“We know that isolation is not in our best interests.
“This was a ground-breaking event that reviewed members’ confidence – some people hadn’t heard of Victim Support before.
“They all said they will be able to muster the strength to report crimes now.”
Sergeant Dave Halliday, of Hartlepool Police, said: “Under-reporting crime has always been a big thing.
“But I, as a police officer, understand the difficulties being in a minority group about standing up and making a stand.
“We are only as good as the information we receive.
“Martin Luther King once said ‘we must repent in this world not only for the actions of the bad people but for the silence of the good people’.
“If hate crime is not challenged, it is still going to exist.
“Being a ‘non-racist’, in my book, is not good enough.
“We have got to take it to a higher level and become anti-racist.
“We welcome all information.”
MP Iain Wright told the meeting: “We should all have zero tolerance.
“You are among friends – Hartlepool, in the main, is a friendly town, but there are pockets of ignorance and prejudice that we need to tackle and we can only do that if we know about it.”
During the event, people took part in workshops to discuss some of the barriers that they feel may deter them from reporting crimes.
These included fear of reprisals, a lack of confidence in the justice system or sentencing powers and language barriers.
Police figures from 2010 show there were 83 reported incidents of hate crime in Hartlepool.
Of these, 63 were race-related, 16 were homophobic, one was faith-related, one was transgender-related and two targeted disabled people.
Other organisations involved in the event, which was also open to disabled and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT), people, included Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA), The Safer Hartlepool Partnership and Hartlepool Community Network.
People can report hate crime via Cleveland Police on (01642) 326326 or Hartlepool Anti-Social Behaviour Unit on (01429) 523100 during office hours and (01429) 869424 out of office time.
Victim Support is available on (01429) 221920 or (01429) 855560.