PSNI ‘veneer’ to tackle hate crime rate

Flair Campbell of Belfast's Anti-Racist Network has dismissed the PSNI's new hate crime awareness campaign as a 'veneer' and claimed that PSNI are not making any serious efforts to tackle the problem.

Flair's comments came on the heels of the PSNI's statement that they are launching a four week long poster campaign to draw attention to the levels of hate crime in the North.

The campaign poster carries the simple message "Hate Crime Is Wrong" with accompanying photographic images depicting the four main areas of hate crime: race hate, homophobia, sectarianism/religion and crimes against people with disabilities.

Mr Campbell referred to what he said were double standards within the PSNI to illustrate his point. "Only last week Johnny Adair was flown out of this country by public purse to safety in England because his life was in danger through his own sectarian actions, yet a Nigerian man who lived in the Donegall Road was attacked 20 times and the PSNI never once launched an operation to help him or get him out. He has since left the area in fear of his life.”

Year-on-year comparisons show that 184 more hate-related incidents were reported between April and December of 2004 than in the same period of 2003.

Racial hate was the leading motive for such incidents in the April-December 2004 figures with 444 incidents reported, followed by 73 homophobic incidents. Mr Campbell said that the figures themselves are testament to the fact that little is being done to combat the problem.

Whilst the police admit that there is still an under-reporting of hate crimes, Flair Campbell believes he knows why many people do not report such incidents.

“The PSNI themselves have said that they cannot guarantee the safety of potential victims. Until this changes they will not be taken seriously.”

The Anti-Racist Network is thriving in West Belfast and Flair credits this to several contributing factors. “There is good leadership in West Belfast and there is a group of dedicated individuals, including many members of Sinn Féin, who are committed to eradicating this inherent and institutionalised form of racism from our society. Unfortunately the PSNI are more likely to investigate us than the actual racists.”

He went on to praise the people who work voluntarily at the Anti-Racist Network to highlight the problem and organise talks at schools and community centres whilst the “heavily paid PSNI do very little and merely give the impression that they are doing something about it.”

The PSNI campaign is focusing on the areas which have reported the highest number of hate crimes: South Belfast, North Belfast, Craigavon, Ballymena, South Tyrone and Foyle and Dungannon. They say they hope the campaign will attract attention and put the issue in the public forum whilst at the same time offer advice to potential victims.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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