Project to tackle hate crime launched

A 'citizens assembly' at the start of this year discussed ways to reduce hate crime
A ‘citizens assembly’ at the start of this year discussed ways to reduce hate crime

Move comes after recorded hate incidents doubled in a decade, reports James Cracknell

Local people will be trained to intervene when they witness potential hate crimes.

Waltham Forest Council is launching what it calls a “bystander intervention” training programme as part of efforts to foster “community solidarity” against hate in the borough.

The training aims to encourage residents to assist those they see as being victims of bullying, harassment or a hate crime, helping them to recognise a potentially harmful situation and how to assist and support victims.

Pilot sessions were delivered digitally to 30 residents last month, during Hate Crime Awareness Week, including to members of faith groups, local voluntary organisations and others who expressed interest. If successful, it’s planned to roll out the training more widely.

The rate of racist and religious hate crimes recorded by the Metropolitan Police in Waltham Forest has nearly doubled over the last decade, with an average of 21 such crimes per month in 2010/11 compared to 40 per month over the last year. Homophobic hate crimes have trebled over the same period, from an average of two per month, up to six per month. A recent survey suggested that two out of three local residents had either experienced or witnessed a hate incident.

Bystander intervention training participant Emmeline May is one of the founding members of Waltham Forest Women Taking Back the Streets, a local group dedicated to stopping street harassment of women. Emmeline said: “The session was a really good introduction into what is known as the ‘bystander effect’, which is the theory that in a public setting individuals may be less likely to take notice of somebody being harassed if there are others around who are not intervening.

“Over time I’m delighted that more people will be taught how to respond in a safe manner when these instances occur.”

The training is one of several community-led programmes the council is taking forward after it hosted the first-ever citizens assembly held by a local authority on the topic of hate crime, earlier this year. The demographically representative group of 45 residents developed six key recommendations aimed at bringing “the whole borough together against hate”. Nearly £300,000 was spent on running the citizens assembly.

Councillor Ahsan Khan, cabinet member for community safety, said: “Waltham Forest is a place where differences aren’t just something that should be tolerated, they should be celebrated. However, as we’re seeing an unprecedented rise in incidents of hate across London, we are working with the local community to address this at a local level.

“Earlier this year, residents told us through the citizens assembly that they want the whole community to be empowered to stand in solidarity against hate. The bystander intervention pilot is one of several programmes being developed that aims to change behaviour among people of all ages and backgrounds to collectively stand united against hate incidences.”

Other recommendations being taken forward include the development of a communications and engagement campaign, improved support for victims and reporting of hate incidents, educating and empowering young people to recognise and reduce hate, and broadening the definition of a hate incident.

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