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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Hate crime reports rising in Cumbria as more victims speak out

Hate crimes are on the rise in Cumbria – and the county’s police force say it is due to more people coming forward.

Bob Qazi photo
DCI Bob Qazi

Figures for April to December last year reveal the number of reported incidents 15 per cent up on the whole of 2012/13.

Any crime instigated because of someone’s race, sexuality, disability or religion is classified as a hate crime.

In the 2012/13 financial year, there were 188 hate crimes reported across Cumbria. In the nine months from April 1, 2013 to December 31, the force had received 217 reported incidents.

Detective Chief Inspector Bob Qazi, the force lead on the issue, insisted the rise is part of the bigger picture.

“We recognise that hate crimes across the board are vastly under-reported,” he said. “They are up to six times under-reported on a national basis, and there is no reason to see why Cumbria would be any different.

“Contrary to most other crimes, this is an area where we are actively looking for the number to increase. The rise in incidents does not equate to a rise in the number of occurrences, only that more people have the confidence to report it.”

He added that while many people think of hate crime as a physical assault or criminal damage sparked by hatred, more often it is verbal abuse. The force is trying to change people’s perceptions of what is an offence, and persuade more victims to speak out.

DCI Qazi said that part of the issue was that those targeted were too afraid or unsure about reporting incidents, and so Cumbria Police is working specifically to improve the ways in which people can report them.

“One of our initiatives is the relocation of our hate crime reporting centres,” he said. “These are designed to encourage people to report incidents that are happening to them, because they may not feel comfortable coming into a police station or to be seen coming to the station.”

The constabulary has moved around its reporting centres, and is set to announce a shake up once details have been finalised.

The detective is particularly keen to try and stress to the public that hate crimes do not have to be extreme or violent incidents.

“The feedback we get is that some people feel they have ‘just’ been verbally abused, and so it is not serious,” he said, “it is – and I cannot emphasise that enough.

“Traditionally there has been a culture among minority groups that they feel they have to acquiesce to unkind remarks made to them or about them.

“They do not have to accept it. If you are targeted because of who you are and you feel it was motivated by hatred then report it to the police.”

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