Victims of hate crime in Hartlepool are being urged to come forward and not suffer in silence.
And community safety chiefs are calling on witnesses to also report incidents whenever they see them occur.
This, they say, will enable them to build up a clearer picture of the extent of hate crime in Hartlepool and plan an effective response.
It is believed that a lot of hate crime currently goes unreported and the appeal to victims and witnesses has been issued by the Hartlepool Community Safety Team to coincide with National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2018 which runs from October 13-20.
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, chairman of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership and the leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “We want victims and witnesses to come forward with confidence in the belief that by reporting hate incidents they may be able to help prevent similar incidents happening to others.”
Cleveland Police has specialist hate crime investigators and over the last 12 months they have secured over 150 charges in relation to hate crimes across the force area.
Last month, offenders in two separate racist incidents received prison sentences of 15 months and 27months respectively, while a two-year Criminal Behaviour Order was obtained by the Hartlepool Community Safety Team against an individual for a series of anti-social behaviour incidents.
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.
The vast majority of hate crime incidents reported in Hartlepool are race-related.
Hate crime can take various forms, including threatening behaviour, verbal abuse, assault, robbery, damage to property - including offensive graffiti, inciting others to commit hate crimes, harassment and exploitation.
Councillor 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.”
Hate crimes 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;
* By calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111;
* By reporting it at one of nine Third Party Reporting Centres in Hartlepool (a full list of the reporting centres, along with more information about hate crime, can be found at www.hartlepool.gov.uk/saferhartlepool).
Special “hate doesn’t belong here” posters can be downloaded at www.hartlepool.gov.uk/saferhartlepool and businesses across Hartlepool are asked to display them prominently to make it clear that any incidents occurring on their premises will be reported.