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Leeds race hate crime fears

Yorkshire Evening Post by Aisha Iqbal | Monday, 16 January 2012 | Click here for original article

Hundreds of people in Leeds are failing to report race hate incidents because they are too scared of reprisals or because they fear nothing will be done.

Figures obtained by the YEP show almost 500 people in the city called a 24-hour hate-crime helpline in 2010/11. The figure shot up by 20 per cent in two years.

However an expert has warned the actual numbers of people experiencing abuse, threatening behaviour, criminal damage and other incidents on an almost daily basis could be FIVE times the numbers reported.

The warning came from Rose Simkins, chief executive of the Leeds-based Stop Hate UK, which has Doreen Lawrence – mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence – as its patron.

Ms Simkins campaigns for more people to report hate crimes and says the vast majority of the calls to her office are race-related.

“We know that 80 per cent of incidents go unreported, although I believe it could be even more ” Ms Simkins told the YEP.

“People regularly say ‘we’ve sorted race’ but what worries me is that there is a stagnation in terms of race [incident] reporting because people don’t believe anything will be done about it, not because it’s sorted.

“We do have some issues in Leeds. There are differences here and lots of people don’t mix with anybody other than people like themselves.”

Ms Simkins said many of the people calling her service will have called the police already, although many suffer in silence.

West Yorkshire Police has set up 50 hate crime reporting centres, which are not based at police premises, and has specially-trained officers at ‘Safeguarding Units’ across the county.

Superintendent Scott Bisset said: “West Yorkshire Police recognise the very disturbing nature of hate crime and the devastating effects it can have on the lives of victims and their families.

“This is why the Force have a dedicated response to dealing with all forms of hate crime.

“Our Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs) also work very closely with other organisations, the voluntary sector and members of local communities to positively encourage the reporting of incidents so they can be dealt with effectively at the first possible opportunity.”

Ms Simkins stressed the city has “some very positive sides”, thriving multicultural and gay scenes and “a lot of people committed to making this a great place to live”.

“But these things are happening, and we mustn’t be complacent,” she added. “What we are hearing is affecting people’s everyday lives. The people doing this could be capable of doing something more serious. Hopefully if it does happen we will deal with it significantly better than with the Stephen Lawrence murder.”

Last week, Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, were jailed for the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in south-east London in 1993

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