Watford FC midfielder Tom Cleverley and the Hornets’ Nigerian international defender Will Troost-Ekong have signed up to the Herts against Hate campaign to mark this week’s Hate Crime Awareness Week.
The pair have contributed to a new video asking Hertfordshire schoolchildren to report hate crime – not ignore it.
Normally the force’s five hate crime officers would be out and about in schools, colleges and at the county’s university this week, meeting children and young people to explain what hate crime is and how to report it.
This year, coronavirus means we all have to do things differently, and for the Herts Against Hate collaborative, including Hertfordshire Constabulary, the county council and partners, face-to-face events talking about what hate crime is and how to report may be a rarity, but they have made a brief video for schools so that they can make time to discuss the issue in the coming weeks.
‘We have had to get creative this year to spread our message – that hate crime is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in Hertfordshire,’ explained Hertfordshire Constabulary’s hate crime lead, Detective Chief Inspector Pete Frost.
‘We’ve teamed up with some top players from Watford FC, an expert by experience from the county council, our police cadets and local schools to make a video that we hope secondary school pupils will remember if they witness or suffer hate crime. We want everyone to know that hate crime is unacceptable, will not be tolerated in Hertfordshire and you should report it, not ignore it.’
‘Watford FC is proud to support Hate Crime Awareness week,’ said Dave Messenger, supporter liaison and disability access officer at the club. ‘Actions speak louder than words and the issue of discrimination in football is something that should and will remain in sharp focus. Having launched our ‘We’ campaign in 2019, working with the hate crime unit at Herts police to encourage inclusivity and tackle social media discrimination directly, everyone at the club remains totally committed to challenging discrimination wherever it appears.’
Nationally, statistics show that hate crime has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic and locally we have seen this, too, although some of this may be attributed to people finding it easier to report incidents. In Hertfordshire, between 1 April and 22 September 2020, 837 people reported hate crimes to police, compared to 804 in the same period last year, a rise of 4.1%.
Hate crime officer PC Andrea Haughton said: ‘Sadly I do feel that some have used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to bully and intimidate people with unacceptable racist taunts causing them a great deal of anxiety and distress.
‘The impact of a hate crime can be devastating. It can cause people to lose their confidence and be fearful about coming and going from their home, being out and about in public places or just going about their daily lives.
‘We take hate crime seriously and always investigate incidents. If there is no prosecution, we contact victims to explain the circumstances, offer support and signpost them to other agencies and support networks.’
As well as filming this video for schools, throughout the week, hate crime officers have been profiled on social media, raising awareness of the different types of hate crime, as well as attending football matches and a workshop for a Mencap group and joining Together Against Hate, an online conference led by the Hate Crime Partnership Board organisation GATE Herts.
Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd, whose office leads the Hertfordshire Hate Crime Partnership Board, said: ‘We know crimes motivated by hate can have an intense, enduring and devastating effect on victims and communities.
‘I recognise the challenges in relation to the under-reporting of hate crime, particularly relating to disability, and the increase use of cyber as a means to target and exploit the vulnerable. I am pleased that thanks to the countywide Hate Crime Strategy, partners now have a better understanding of, and response to, hate crimes of all types.
‘We must ensure that we continue to work together to prevent hate crime and bring offenders to justice, while also giving victims the confidence to report the crime and to cope and recover.’
You can report hate crime online at herts.police.uk/report, speak to an operator in the Force Communications Room via online web chat at herts.police.uk/contact or call the non-emergency number 101. In an emergency dial 999. Alternatively report it anonymously via the True Vision website report-it.org.uk.
For more information about hate crime visit hertsagainsthate.org.