Members of ethnic minority groups in North Yorkshire are reluctant to report hate crime and racist abuse because of concerns about “historical racism in policing”, a report has warned.
A new report about hate crime in the predominantly white county says non-white communities are smaller than in neighbouring parts of the country and and as a result risk becoming ‘easy targets.’
In response, North Yorkshire Police say they want to change the situation where victims are living with abuse because they don’t realise there is an alternative.
According to the report, in 2013/14, there were 370 recorded ‘hate incidents’ and 226 recorded hate crimes across North Yorkshire and York, 70 per cent of which were racially motivated.
But its authors say these figures only tell part of the story as hate crime is widely under-reported, with many victims put off from telling police what has happened because of previous bad experiences.
It said: “Some groups do have an established relationship: the Pakistani community in Skipton in particular has a good rapport with local officers. Others were very internal and did not engage with services, such as the diverse groups in Catterick.
“For some however, historical racism in policing was seen to be a barrier and created mistrust of the service.
“Older people across all ethnicities were far less likely to report perceived ‘less serious’ hate crime. They had good understandings and expectations of the police, but would only make contact if there was more serious crime such as criminal damage.”
More than 93 per cent of the population in North Yorkshire is classed as white British, with ‘white other’, including the white gipsy populations of Selby and Hambleton, making up 39 per cent of the remainder.
Of the 613 incidents reported to the police over the year, a third were from York, which is the county’s most populous and diverse area, while Scarborough and Harrogate saw 145 and 103 respectively.
The largest non-white group, classed as ‘other Asian’ in Richmondshire and totalling more than 1,000 people, is down to the large Gurkha population at Catterick Garrison.
Though there was agreement on what constituted hate crime, many were unsure whether name-calling or non-physical abuse were criminal and some shrugged off verbal attack, saying they weren’t important.
It was suggested that and communities had no relationship with the police and that the Nepalese and Fijian populations across North Yorkshire “fall under the radar of the police and other services”.
Some of the respondees who took part in the survey said victims of racist abuse 20 years ago still kept their feelings on the subject quiet and ‘kept themselves to themselves’ to avoid any further crime.
The report said that the social exclusion or isolation of minority communities meant there “is an indication that those who are excluded can become targets”.
It said: “Race and misconceptions about race are prevalent. International events and news ‘tar everyone with the same brush’ who look similar, and learned, social behaviour still exists.
“North Yorkshire and York is predominantly ethnically white – those non-white communities therefore are comparatively very small and in isolation, perhaps becoming ‘easy targets’.”
On the subject of hate crime against people with disabilities, many victims consulted said they would contact the police if there was a serious crime, but that “hate crime was not deemed to be serious enough to justify contacting the police”.
The report added: “Significantly, the majority of respondents in the disability groups used phrases like, ‘it happens all the time,’ ‘it’s always been like that,’ and ‘it’s normal.’
“Those who had life-long disabilities felt that they had been targeted for ‘as long as [I] can remember,’ and had become used to habitual abuse.”
The research, which started in March 2015, included focus groups held across North Yorkshire and York with people from diverse communities, representing ‘racial, religious, disability, sexuality and gender identity backgrounds’.
Among the recommendations are that all North Yorkshire Police officers have training about the county’s diverse communities and that they can offer information advice about its ‘supporting victims service’.
North Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Julia Mulligan, who ordered the report, said: “I have always known that Hate Crime is under-reported, but the reasons why have been less certain.
“This report provides the police and partners with valuable insight into the barriers that contribute to low reporting in some communities. I hope it proves to be a milestone in improving the service from here on in.
“It is also important to say that police are already working on improvements, such as a dedicated helpline facility introduced earlier this year. I am sure this report will assist in strengthening their response yet further.
“Unlike most crimes I want to see an increase in reported incidents as this will signify an increased willingness in the public to come forward and confidence in their police service.”
North Yorkshire Police’s lead on hate crime, Chief Inspector Nick Hunter, said: “Since last May we have been working on a new action plan to tackle hate crime, and this is a useful piece of research that will contribute to our thinking on this important issue.
“In particular the research has highlighted the problem of hate crime on public transport and in the night-time economy. These are certainly areas that we will pay close attention to, as we consider the findings of this report.”
He added: “I have been speaking to many different community groups over recent months about their experiences of hate crime, and it is clear that some people are living with abuse because they don’t realize that that there is an alternative. We want to change that.”