VICTIMS of hate crime are being urged not to suffer in silence.
A new scheme in South Tyneside aims to give people targeted because of their sexuality, disability, race or other ways they choose to live their lives, a voice.
Arch was launched yesterday at South Shields Town Hall with police warning hate crime is a “hugely under-reported” issue.
In the past 12 months in South Tyneside, 55 hate crimes were recorded by police, of which, 85.7 per cent were solved.
But Chief Inspector Brian Walker, of South Tyneside Area Command, said: “We know there are a huge number of hate crimes that are not reported.
“It is a serious crime and one that has the potential to escalate from threats and harassment to violence.
“We need people to know South Tyneside police have a robust mechanism in place to investigate all hate crimes reported to us.”
Victims can be targeted in a number of ways – from name calling to damage to their property or physical abuse.
In one case in South Tyneside, a man with learning disabilities was targeted by a gang of youths.
Whenever he left the house he would be verbally threatened, and on one occasion he was told to lie face down in a stream.
Chief Insp Walker added: “The consequence is he could have died.”
The aims of Arch South Tyneside, led by Richie Miles, the neighbourhood co-ordinator for South Tyneside Area Command, are to increase the number of hate incidents reported, support to victims and improve the action taken against offenders.
There are now a range of places that victims can seek help. These include, the police, South Tyneside Council’s anti-social behaviour unit, community wardens, Age UK, South Tyneside College, South Tyneside Homes, Victim Support, Your Voice Counts, STAG (South Tyneside and Gateshead Bisexual Men’s Project), ISOS Housing Limited and MESMAC (working with gay men in the North East).
Additional reporting centres are at Apnar Ghar and Ocean Road Community Centre.
Coun Tracey Dixon, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for leisure and community safety, said: “Hate crime has always been one of our priorities. We will always take robust action against those responsible and give victims the support needed.”
The launch was also attended by representatives from Show Racism the Red Card – a group that uses football as a way of raising awareness of racism and its effects.