Life Style Extra (UK), August 16, 2006
Eighty per cent of hate crime victims feel they are not being taken seriously by the police, it was claimed today.
Only one in five of victims who have complained about a religious, homophobic or racist attack feels they have received proper support from officers, and most feel the police are slow to act on their complaints.
The beliefs that complaints will not be dealt with seriously had led to many hate crimes going unreported — and victims are being urged to report incidents rather than suffer in silence.
Charity Victim Support says many victims of hate offences do not report their suffering because of the fear of going to court, concern about revenge attacks and a lack of understanding from the authorities.
The charity says it helps about 30,000 people affected by racist crime alone each year — and numbers are rising.
Volunteers fear the issue will become an even bigger problem in the wake of concerns about British-born Islamic fanatics turning to terrorism.
Its report Crime and Prejudice says researchers found hate crime victims suffered major damage to the quality of their life — including the loss of their home or business due to arson or vandalism — and deterioration of emotional well-being.
A survey of some 107 hate crime victims showed some even abandoned life outside the home for fear of attacks — deciding to give up work and go on the dole.
Some victims said they see abuse as part of daily life. Just over half of those interviewed suffered from ongoing victimisation and many described living with the fear of repeat attacks.
Although awareness of hate crime is increasing the research — part of a £100,000 programme funded by Co-operative Insurance (CIS) — found evidence of police taking a “there is nothing we can do” approach towards low-level harassment.
Of those who did report the crime only one in five felt that they were well supported by the police. But where victims were dealt with by specialist police officers they were seen as the most helpful source of support.
Victims surveyed wanted the police to be more communicative and more sympathetic — and to take hate crime seriously.
A common complaint was the lack of action on the part of the police either to help solve problems or to pursue the perpetrator.
Police were also criticised for poor communication — especially not informing on the progress of a case. Respondents often didn’t know about third-party reporting which could contribute to the under-reporting of hate crimes.
The report called for greater investment in promotion of services to at-risk communities and the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to understand and respond to the needs of victims and record hate crime more accurately.
Services for victims of hate crime need to be more joined up and support services need more funding for specialist staff while the root causes of hate crime need to be tackled, it said.
Rasheed Sadegh-Zadeh, borough manager of Victim Support in Enfield, north London, said hate crime had increased by 63 per cent in the past year — although the figure could be much higher.
He said: “Being targeted for who you are is life changing and the number of reported incidents is only the tip-of-the-iceberg. We are scratching the surface.
“Racial incidents are likely to get worse after the events of last week and the arrests of terrorist suspects.
“It is important that anyone who suffers abuse, victimisation or abuse either contacts the police or us because this is the only way we will know exactly how big the problem is.”
Peter Dunn, head of research and development at Victim Support, said: “Hate crime symbolises all the worst aspects of prejudice.
“Our research shows it has a more profoundly damaging affect on victims that is often not fully understood by the criminal justice system.
“Hate crime damages whole communities — not just the individuals who are targeted. It makes people afraid that they might be the next victim and creates a climate of fear.
“We will be sharing the findings of this research with the police, Crown Prosecution Service and other community groups to work together more effectively and improve our support for victims of hate crime.
“Through this research Victim Support has learned that we need to make our services more visible and accessible to the communities most at risk but we need more funding to do this.
“The next step is to develop new guidance and training materials for our local branches and we are very grateful to CIS for funding this programme of work.”
Chris Smith, head of community and co-operative affairs at the Co-operative Group, said: “As an insurance company CIS deals daily with victims of many types of crime.
“Supporting Victim Support with this research was important as we wanted to understand the breadth of hate crime, the issues facing service providers and finally to help make a difference for the victims.
“The Co-operative Group’s values include social responsibility and caring for others. Our association with Victim Support is just one way that we are putting our values into practice for the benefit of minority groups in society.”
Hate crime victims have accused housing providers of being too slow to give them practical help, a new survey published today reveals.
Safety measures such as better locks or CCTV cameras take too long to be fitted after a hate crime attack, the study by charity Victim Support showed.
These findings are a blow to the government’s attempts to promote its respect agenda, which include publication this week of a respect standard for housing managers to ensure they are more proactive in dealing with bad behaviour.
The report said a number of victims called on housing providers to be more proactive and to offer relocation as an option.
It said: ‘A number of victims complained that all they were offered was a sympathetic ear, when what they wanted was practical help.
‘Generic service providers (in particularly housing providers) were slow to provide practical solutions (such as better locks or CCTV) that would prevent further attacks.’
Hate crime victims included homeless people according to the report, but asylum seekers and BME groups were the most common groups affected.
Victims’ views were also ignored sometimes, the report also said, such as when perpetrators were moved against the victims’ wishes.
To help eviction or rehousing of offenders ‘clearer pathways’ were needed, Victim Support reported.
The report, which included interviews with 107 hate crime victims, as well as many service providers, is available here: http://www.victimsupport.org.uk/vs_england_wales/about_us/publications/hate_crime/crime_prejudice.pdf