Hate crime is nationally on the rise – but rather than challenge perpetrators, police advise witnesses to focus on the victim instead.
Sergeant Phil Priestly, of Ely Police Station, told Spotted in Ely that the best plan of action was to “empathise and be compassionate towards the victim”, rather than be drawn into an argument with the person responsible.
“By reaching out to the victim, you’re making them feel more secure. You’ll be showing that you don’t have any allegiances to the terrible views and opinions that are being expressed and it helps to calm that victim down and make them feel safer.”
Although witnesses may be tempted to record hate crimes on their phones, they should always put their own safety and the safety of the victim first, Sgt Priestly said.
He advised that victims and witnesses should report offences immediately to police, and that tackling hate crime was a priority for Cambridgeshire Constabulary.
A hate crime is any offence motivated by the perceived identity of the victim.
It could be based on their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, religious beliefs and affiliations. It could be crime targeted at people with disabilities, especially hidden conditions, Sgt Priestly said.
“You get instances where people can be quite cruel towards children.”
He had dealt with a number of incidents where youngsters with autism or ADHD were verbally abused and called “naughty”, he said, adding that more “empathy and compassion” was needed.
The Ely sergeant was taking part in a special event at Ely Market today to mark National Hate Crime Awareness Week. The event was also attended by local firefighters and staff from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
A Home Office report released today showed that nationally the number of complaints regarding racist or religious abuse recorded by police had jumped by 41% in July – the month after the UK voted to leave the UK.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Coles said: “Since Brexit there’s been a spike in hate crimes across the country.
“There were about a dozen incidents of cards being put thorough the letterboxes of Eastern European residents in Huntingdon.”
While police had dealt with “occasional reports” of alleged hate crime in East Cambridgeshire, the area was generally one in which people lived in harmony together, he said.
“We live in one of the lowest crime areas in the country. We live in a very cohesive community, particularly in our urban areas.”
A former police officer for 30 years, Mr Coles also wanted to reassure residents shocked by news that a neo-Nazi group had recently held a two-day gathering in Haddenham, expressing sympathy with the unsuspecting landowner who was unaware he had rented out his premises to “racists”.
He said that most of the people attended the gathering were from outside the UK, and that Ely had a reputation for being a tolerant place with little crime.
Meanwhile the newly formed group, Ely Community Against Hate, will be holding a stall at Ely Market this Saturday to reassure anyone worried by hate crime.