Police tackle hate crime reporting

Greater Manchester Police are launching two initiatives to tackle under-reporting of antisemitic incidents.

In the next few weeks, the force will pilot a hate crime victim support system in Prestwich and Whitefield in partnership with the Community Security Trust. Prestwich's strictly Orthodox community will also have a forum at public meetings in a separate move to engender more engagement with police.

Senior Manchester policemen promise that future victims of racist attacks will be visited by a dedicated community relations officer and offered support by the CST under its neighbourhood support plan.

Victims will also get to make a surgery-style appointment with investigating officers. If a success, the pilot programme will influence hate crime strategies across the Greater Manchester force.

On Monday, police notices were placed in Prestwich strictly Orthodox synagogues urging congregants to report hate crime and attend upcoming public meetings.

CST figures issued last week recorded 216 antisemitic incidents in Manchester in 2010, the highest for the area in recent years. Incidents have nearly doubled since the 125 recorded in 2008. Although the figures suggest a significant rise in antisemitism, the increase is partly attributed to more reports reaching the CST and improved data exchange with the police.

But Bury division's Inspector Mark Kenny believed there was "an under-reporting problem", particularly on minor antisemitic incidents.

"I want to make it clear, it is so important that we are aware of every hate incident and crime. People don't have to tolerate this behaviour. They may think because they haven't been assaulted they shouldn't report it, but any crime motivated by hate is repugnant. It will be investigated by my officers."

Prestwich's Sergeant Ian Campbell said reporting was crucial to the deployment of resources. The number of officers in his area would not be reduced despite recently announced cuts to police budgets. But planning how they were used would be increasingly important.

"We have been working for many years to try to increase the amount of reporting, in particular among the strictly Orthodox community who generally don't trouble us with incidents. But even the wider Jewish community tend not to bother us because people think we have more important things to do, which is not the case."

Prestwich father-of-three Mark Shapiro said he had not reported four incidents of antisemitic abuse directed at him from occupants of cars in recent months - including comments such as "dirty Jew". In one instance, a bottle was thrown at his vehicle.

"Most of them occurred on Shabbat so I wasn't able to write down a registration number of the car. I would report it but I felt verbal abuse wasn't serious enough to report to police."

Josh Engle, 41, from Prestwich, did not report an incident where youths threw a bottle at a strictly Orthodox man because no one was hurt. "We should report them but I wonder if it will affect how companies estimate the cost of my home insurance."

The CST's Mark Gardner said evidence suggested that the most prevalent types of antisemitism were under-reported.

"We believe that reporting rates have steadily improved in recent years, although the real total of actual attacks is still likely to be much higher than the reported total. Incidents of verbal abuse are the least likely to be reported to either CST or police."

    Last updated: 10:50am, February 11 2011