Stamping out hate crime - how fire service staff are helping tackle the problem in our communities
Fire chiefs have pledged to stamp out hate crime across Tyne and Wear after throwing their support behind a new charter.
In recent months, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) joined other emergency services in a series of events exploring the impacts of hate crime.
The sessions aimed to explore where the responsibility lies for recognising the issue, reporting incidents and supporting victims.
A hate crime is a criminal offence which is perceived by the victim, or any other person, as being motivated by hostility or prejudice based on race, disability, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.
It can range from physical attacks, graffiti and arson to threats, intimidation, verbal abuse and bullying at school or in the workplace.
Under a new charter, signed off by the region’s fire authority this week, fire bosses agreed take a ‘zero-tolerance approach’ to the issue.
“It’s unfortunately the case that hate crime has been rising nationally for a number of years, in one sense the fact that we’ve got to bring this forward is a sad thing,” Coun Tom Woodwark said.
“On the other side of that, it’s something that I think we should be justly proud about that we have put in writing what this service believes should happen.”
The Newcastle councillor was speaking at a fire authority meeting where the charter won unanimous support.
Pledges included raising awareness with fire service staff and communities across Tyne and Wear, supporting victims and working with police around prevention.
TWFRS have also supported the training of workplace ‘hate crime champions’, with a total of 17 in post so far.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Police, Kim McGuinness, praised fire chiefs for drafting the plan.
“This is about showing the sort of service that you want to be, putting your money where your mouth is and using some of the influence that you have as firefighters in the community to show it’s unacceptable,” she told the meeting.
“There has been a rise in hate crime nationally, some of that we can put down to improved reporting because of the fact that organisations like the fire service are doing things like this.
“But some of it is a rise in ignorance in the fact that some people think these things are still acceptable, we have to show them that they aren’t frankly.”
The hate crime charter will be publicised throughout the fire service and to the public in future.