A project to set up the first hate crime reporting centres in Wales has seen an immediate sharp increase in reports of offences against people with learning difficulties.
Torfaen People First – which is run by people with learning difficulties – set up the reporting centres through a partnership with Gwent police, with Home Office funding.
Seven centres across Torfaen – a county borough in south-east Wales – now have staff trained to identify disability hate crime and support the victim to record and report offences.
Just five weeks into the scheme, there have already been four reports of hate crime made by people with learning difficulties. This compares with six in the whole of the previous year.
Two were reports of verbal abuse and two were complaints of harassment. All four are being investigated by police.
Torfaen People First will now roll out the scheme across Gwent over the next six months.
Stephen Brookes, coordinator of the National Disability Hate Crime Network, said: “We are actually winning the battle because it means disabled people are now feeling confident to report hate crime. That is what we have all been fighting for.”
A Gwent police spokeswoman said the increase in reporting “enables us to have a clearer idea of what’s going on but also to tackle it and investigate it”.
The new reporting centres are all places where people with learning difficulties frequently meet and feel comfortable, including community clubs and education centres.
Staff at the centres help people fill in the reporting packs, which have been designed to be accessible to people with learning difficulties.
The form is then passed to the police – along with an electronic referral – or the case is referred to the charity Victim Support, depending on the victim’s wishes.
Police officers trained in working with people with learning difficulties act as local contacts for the reporting centres.
Torfaen People First has also produced its own DVD about disability hate crime, which is being used at the reporting centres.
A member of Torfaen People First, who has used the new reporting pack, said: “The reporting pack was easy to use with help and it made me feel good to complete the form.
“I would encourage other people with a learning disability to use the form to write a report when they are the victim of any disability hate crime.”
Chief superintendent Paul Symes, of Gwent police, said: “The identification of reporting centres gives potential victims the reassurance that they can report crime in a place they are comfortable with and that they do not have to speak to police or go to a police station if they don’t want to.”
He said the scheme should help the identification, reporting and investigation of disability hate crimes that previously would have gone “unrecognised and therefore unreported”.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh Community Safety Partnership has launched a campaign to encourage more reporting of disability hate crime.
Posters with the slogan “I’m disabled, deal with it” will be displayed across the city.
13 May 2010