The 'champions' will educate their peers and colleagues about what constitutes a hate crime, how to report it & how victims can get support.
Police have launched a new initiative to educate the public about hate crime and the impact it can have on communities.
Officers have teamed up with Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside Council to enlist specialist ‘Hate Crime Champions’ across the region.
It is hoped that members of the community who take up the role can then educate their peers and colleagues about what constitutes a hate crime, how to report it to police and how victims can get support.
Last week, community engagement officers visited Sunderland People First – a community group who improve the lives of people with learning disabilities and autism – to give a presentation on hate crime and promote the roles.
Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt, of Northumbria Police, said: “It is unacceptable to abuse somebody because of their race, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability, transgender identity or any other protected characteristic.
“Hate crime is something we believe has been under-reported for a long time, but as a Force, we have worked extremely hard to give victims the confidence to come forward.
“A significant improvement has been made in how we record hate crime, and there has been an increased understanding among officers about what constitutes hate crime.
“The ‘Hate Crime Champions’ scheme means businesses or groups can have nominated champions in their organisation who can support and advise people who may have been a victim to these types of offences.
“Victims can then speak to a friendly face in a safe, secure environment and can receive advice on how to report what has happened to them, or how they may be able to get specialist support.”
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness welcomed the initiative.
Commissioner McGuinness said: “Hate crime is an issue that is close to my heart. Nobody should be targeted for who they are under any circumstances.
“We know that not everyone feels comfortable in calling 101 or 999, so I wholeheartedly welcome the ‘Hate Crime Champions’ initiative that will offer further support to victims and increase awareness across the region.
“Our message is simple; if you have been a victim of hate crime, come forward and talk to us – please do not suffer in silence.”
Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside Council hope the initiative can help to prevent future incidents.
Councillor Michael Mordey, deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, said: Everybody has the right to live, work and play free of hate crime. Working with and in the community, this scheme is about tackling hate crime and stopping it.”
Cllr Joan Atkinson, lead member for Area Management and Community Safety at South Tyneside Council, added: “Hate crime can have a devastating impact on people’s mental and physical wellbeing. It can make victims feel very isolated, depressed, frightened, distressed and unsafe.
“This sort of crime is not, and will never be, tolerated in our communities. Working in partnership with Northumbria Police, we want to mobilise people to recognise hate crime and help stop it.”
Any individuals, groups or businesses interested in becoming a ‘Hate Crime Champion’ can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.