More than 100 hate crimes were reported to police in Harrogate in 2013/14 despite it being ‘widely under reported’ across North Yorkshire
A new report about hate crime in the predominantly white county found that there were 370 recorded ‘hate incidents’ and 226 recorded hate crimes across North Yorkshire and York in 2013/14.
But its authors say these figures only tell part of the story as hate crime is widely under-reported, with many victims put off from telling police what has happened because of previous bad experiences.
The report, published by Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, Julia Mulligan, said that ‘historical racism in policing’ stopped members of ethnic minority groups in North Yorkshire reporting the crime.
In response, North Yorkshire Police say they want to change the situation where victims are living with abuse because they don’t realise there is an alternative.
In Harrogate, 103 hate crimes were reported to the police - a lower level for its population. The report found the LGBT community made the most criticism of the police compared to other groups.
It said: “Historical relationships and the level of persecution felt by LGBT people in the past (by police) remains impactful today.
“Institutional racism remains at the fore of racial tensions and a similar, established anti-LGBT feeling is thought to exist among some police forces.
“Many felt that they had been judged or persecuted for a long time, however they had noticed some social changes in acceptance of lesbian and gay people in particular.
"Although ‘acceptance’ is increasing, particularly for transgender people who have gained high profile role models over the last 2 years, many are still victims of abuse.”
More than 250 people in Harrogate are in a same sex civil partnership which is the second highest in North Yorkshire, behind York with almost 450.
Thommo Snape has helped run the Harrogate LGBT Youth Group alongside Sarah King since 2013 and explained the drawbacks of reporting hate crime to the police.
He said: “One of the drawbacks with hate crime reporting is the length of time it takes and one of the discussions we are having with the police is people filling in the forms.
“We know there’s more hate crime that goes on that’s being reported but people are reluctant to report it, but we’re not just laying the blame on the police.
“Most of the crimes we encounter are low level but the negative language becomes the norm. One of the worst is when people say ‘that’s so gay’. It’s using people’s sexuality in a negative way.”
Mr Snape said that, since its creation, more than 50 young people have accessed the service in Harrogate but said they are forced to keep their meeting place a secret for fear of abuse.
He said: “In an ideal world it would not be about acceptance as an LGBT person, rather than just being a person and being able to live your life how you want.
“There’s lots of issues and people address it in different ways, we are enabling people to feel confident. Our group is a safe place to be and what it does allow us to be as open as they want to be.
"The group support each other really well. We know there’ve been a couple of situation where an individual has come to our group where they may have self harmed, but now that’s come to an end because of the support we offer.”
As well as the LGBT youth group in Harrogate, another has been set up in Scarborough but Mr Snape revealed they had encountered difficulty establishing groups in the more rural areas of North Yorkshire.
“One of the difficulties is the majority of people are quite liberal but it does not happen in their village, it’s that type of mentality,” he said.