A campaign has been launched in Hartlepool to raise awareness of hate crime and to encourage victims to report incidents.
It has been launched by the Safer Hartlepool Partnership – whose members include Hartlepool Borough Council, Cleveland Police and a range of other public sector and voluntary agencies – to coincide with National Hate Crime Awareness Week, this week.
Last year there were more than 150 incidents recorded in the town, but it is believed that many more go unreported.
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, chair of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership and the leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “By reporting hate incidents, victims may help to prevent similar incidents happening to someone else.
“The information they provide will also give us a clearer picture of the extent of hate crime in Hartlepool and enable us to better plan our response.”
Hate crimes are committed against people because of their actual or perceived disability; gender-identity; race, ethnicity or nationality; religion, faith or belief; sexual orientation or alternative sub-culture. They also include so-called mate crimes where someone befriends a vulnerable person with the intention of exploiting them financially, physically or sexually.
It is estimated that around 80% reported hate crime incidents in Hartlepool are race-related.
Hate crimes can include threatening behaviour, verbal abuse, assault, robbery, damage to property - including offensive graffiti, inciting others to commit hate crimes, harassment and exploitation.
Special “this business will not tolerate hate” posters are also being distributed to businesses across Hartlepool and owners are being asked to display them prominently to make it clear that any incidents occurring on their premises will be reported.
Coun Akers-Belcher added: “Hate crime can have a devastating impact on its victims and it is important that we provide them with a way of reporting incidents.
“By raising awareness of the support that is available to victims we hope they will be more confident about coming forward. Everyone in the town should be able to get on with their lives without fear of abuse.”
They can be reported in the following ways: by dialling 999 in an emergency; by dialling 101 in a non-emergency; online on the True Vision website at www.report-it.org.uk, or by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.