LGBT+ History Month 'helps reduce harm' as hate crime rates soar
- Credit: PA/John Walton
LGBTQ+ people in Essex face the highest rate of hate crime in the East of England.
Data shows that for every 100,000 people in Essex, the police recorded 26 hate crimes based on a person’s sexual orientation between January and August last year.
Essex Police's hate crime chief has said that an increasing number of people feel able to report abuse, which has led to a rise in the number of reported incidents.
But the head of a wellbeing charity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans members of the community has called for a vision-zero approach to hate crime in the county and has said events like LGBT+ History Month help to reduce harm.
Data published by Press Association shows that in the first eight months of 2021, Essex Police recorded 446 hate crimes against a person based on their sexual orientation – or 26 incidents per 100,000 residents.
Neighbouring Hertfordshire had the lowest hate incident rate in the region - with 14 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2021.
Cambridgeshire saw 18 incidents per 100,000, while London's incident rate was similar to Essex's at 28 per 100,000.
Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people are rising
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The data also suggests that the number of cases has risen since 2019.
Against 446 homophobic hate incidents between January and August 2021, there were 448 across the whole year in 2019 in Essex.
The number of hate crimes against trans people in Essex stood at 102 in 2019 – an average of 8.5 incidents per month.
Between January and August 2021, this figure stood at 81 – an average of 10.13 monthly incidents.
'Understanding and empathy are essential'
Pip Gardner, chief executive of the Cambridgeshire-based Kite Trust, an LGBTQ+ support and networking charity, said that more must be done to reduce hate crimes in the region.
Pip said: "Whilst it’s great that more people are coming forward to report hate crime, it’s awful that these crimes are still going on.
"LGBT+ History Month is an important event for drawing attention to the stories of the LGBTQ+ community that have been hidden for too long, particularly because of legislation like Section 28 which forbade this sort of teaching in schools.
"Understanding and empathy are essential to tackling rising hate and the violence it creates."
Essex Police Chief Constable BJ Harrington marked the start of LGBT+ History Month on February 1 by raising a flag at his Chelmsford headquarters.
He said: "Essex Police is committed to being inclusive, supporting colleagues to be the best they can be."
Superintendent Richard Melton, Essex Police's hate crime lead, said he is encouraged by the figures but believes there are more crimes which police do not know about.
He said: "We want people to come forward and let us deal with the people that are perpetrating crimes against them.
"It’s wrong and needs to be challenged. That information will allow us to identify themes and take targeted action.
"We recognise the problems that hate crime causes and how it can escalate.
"What starts as low-level anti-social behaviour can grow into community tensions.
"Tensions then normalise hatred and we have offences committed by those motivated by hate.
"We’re dealing with problems at a community level and learning every day about how to deal more effectively with hate crime."
Police say that crimes can be reported online, at a police station, or by calling 101 or 999 if a person is in danger.