Communities in St Helens need to be better educated around hate crimes, a police commander has said.
Local Policing Supt Louise Harrison told the council’s safer communities overview and scrutiny panel this week that there have been three hate crimes in St Helens in December.
Supt Harrison said hate crimes – which include homophobic, racist and disability-related crimes – have remained “steady” in 2018, with “peaks and troughs” throughout the year.
However, the area commander said hate crimes are “under-reported”, adding that the force would actually like to see an increase in the number reported.
Supt Harrison said: “Merseyside Police are absolutely committed to tackling hate crime and getting those messages out.
“And actually, if we’re seeing reductions, what we want in a perverse way almost is to see increases because that almost is an indicator, actually, that people have got faith and confidence to come forwards because we know it’s probably quite an under-reported crime.
“I think there is still work to be done around education, about making sure communities understand it’s not acceptable.”
Earlestown councillor David Banks said he was “fearful” that society was returning to the “dark old days” where hate crimes were seen as acceptable.
The Labour councillor referenced the recent news coverage of Manchester City footballer Raheem Sterling, who was allegedly racially abused during City’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea over the weekend.
The England international, a former pupil at Rainhill High school in St Helens, later took to Instagram and said he “just had to laugh” at the incident, before accusing the media of helping “fuel racism” with its coverage of young black footballers.
Coun Banks said: “I’m just fearful we’re actually going back to the dark old days where we’re beginning to accept it again and we don’t’ actually report it as a crime because it’s acceptable.
“We hear it on the street, hear it at a football game, wherever it is.
“We’ve just had reports in the papers and on the television about a footballer who seems to accept that it just goes on.
“And I understand, I know that the numbers you say are going down but I’m just fearful we’re going down the road of just accepting it again.”
Supt Harrison said Merseyside Police have dedicated team who investigate hate crimes.
She added that many hate crimes are reported to the police through third parties.
Supt Harrison also revealed that reports of anti-social behaviour has been “markedly lower” in recent months than in previous years, with “hundreds” fewer incidents reported.
However, Supt Harrison again acknowledged that anti-social behaviour may be under-reported.
Supt Harrison said: “With all crimes we know there’s probably an element of under-reporting. I think communities don’t always report anti-social behaviour.
“I think there is a tolerance with our communities sadly where they’ll call the police when it’s got to a topping point, often.”