Racist attacks and transphobia behind ‘distressing’ increase in hate crimes

Black Lives Matter protest at The Forum in Norwich on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Picture: Eloise Ray

Black Lives Matter protest at The Forum in Norwich. - Credit: Archant

Big rises in racially motivated incidents and transphobia are among increasing numbers of hate crimes recorded by police in Norfolk.

Home Office figures show there were 1,362 hate crime offences recorded in the county in the year ending March 2021.

The 26pc increase from 2019/20 was double the increase seen nationally as the number of hate crimes recorded by police forces in England and Wales hit its highest level on record.

Hate crimes in Norfolk comprised 803 racially motivated, 55 linked to religious hate, 240 sexual-orientation hate crimes, 186 where disability was the motivating factor and 78 transgender hate crimes.

Some crimes fall into more than one of these categories.

A host of heart-shaped messages have been stuck up outside Winchester Tower Picture: David Hannant/E

Heart-shaped messages stuck up at Winchester Tower in Norwich in response to a racist poster. - Credit: Archant

Every category in Norfolk saw an increase but the steepest rises were a 25pc rise in homophobic crimes, race hate offences up 22pc, while transgender motivated offences more than doubled in the year. 

Michelle Savage, trustee of Norwich Pride, said: "These are distressing statistics, especially for the trans community. 

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“Nobody should suffer a hate crime just for being themselves. We have to as a community step up and look out for our neighbours, our family and our friends.

Michelle Savage, trustee of Norwich Pride.

Michelle Savage, trustee of Norwich Pride. - Credit: Archant

“We hear from colleagues in schools that there was a rise in homophobic and transphobic banter following the lockdown.”

She said the rise in far right parties and anti-LGBT sentiment in countries like Poland and Hungary had emboldened people holding similar views in the UK. 

“Our mission is to live in a city where everyone can feel safe and proud to be themselves. To do that we need everyone to say no to hate,” she said. 

Thousands of people enjoying the 10th Norwich Pride Parade.Picture: Nick Butcher

Thousands of people enjoying the Norwich Pride Parade. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The figures cover the period when the Back Lives Matters movement rose to national prominence including protests in Norfolk.

Incidents in Norfolk have included racist graffiti outside mosques and synagogues and a poster put up in a Norwich tower block ordering residents to speak English.

Chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, Jabeer Butt, said: "The latest hate crime figures paint a bleak picture for equality in the UK.

Graffiti daubed on the side of the Essex Street synagogue. Some content has been censored. 

Graffiti daubed on the side of the Essex Street synagogue in Norwich. Some content has been censored.  - Credit: Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue

"The fact that almost three quarters of hate crimes were racially motivated shows just how far is left to go towards building a society that is truly tolerant and anti-racist.”

The Home Office said the rises have been driven by improvements in recording, growing awareness and a better identification of what constitutes a hate crime.

A spokesperson for Norfolk Constabulary said: "We work very hard internally and externally with our stakeholders, key individual networks and communities to raise awareness of what constitutes hate, whether that be an incident or crime.

"We also recognise there will sometimes be an impact from global issues, for example around the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, where we saw a rise in the hate crimes reported to Norfolk Constabulary towards the end of May last year.

“Greater confidence to approach the police around these types of crimes is also likely to have had an a impact on the figures and we are working with different communities to understand their fears. We do know, however, that hate crime is often under-reported and work closely with Norfolk County Council in the third-party reporting protocol called Stop Hate in Norfolk (SHiN), to make it easier for residents to report such incidents.

“We are committed to making sure people feel safe in Norfolk and want our communities to know they can contact us and we will believe you and with your help will pursue the perpetrators through the criminal justice system.”

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