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HATE crimes against the LGBT+ community in Essex have risen by almost 40 per cent since last year and are now occurring at a rate of almost one a day, according to figures published by police.
Data released by Essex Police showed that from September 2018 to August 2019, 351 hate crimes were recorded that focused on the victim’s sexual orientation.
The force said this amounted to an increase of almost 100 offences, compared to the same period in 2017/18.
The most common offences included malicious communications, public order offences like shouting abuse in the street, and assaults.
The true figure is likely to be significantly higher, as similar offences will simply not have been reported.
Police said homophobic crimes were particularly common during the Pride season, when marches are held to raise awareness about LGBT+ issues.
Basildon mayor David Burton-Sampson, chairman of the Basildon Pride Committee, said: “There’s definitely been a visible rise in the number of hate crimes that the LGBT+ community have experienced in the last year – more so than I have ever seen before. Being a part of the community, hate crime has definitely increased.”
He cited the ‘horrendous’ case of a female couple in Pitsea, who reportedly suffered a prolonged campaign of harassment, abuse and assaults by a homophobic gang, which began when they were spotted one day holding hands in a park.
An Essex Police spokesman said: “Sadly, we see a noticeable rise in reports throughout the summer months, when the community celebrates Pride events across the county.
“Our officers and the force’s LGBT+ network continue to maintain a visible presence at Pride events across Essex, in the hopes of deterring these types of crimes and allowing members of the community to speak to us about any concerns or queries they may have.”
The figures were published after recent research by Stonewall found that 80 per cent of the LGBT+ community had been the victim of a hate crime.
Cllr Burton-Sampson said: “Some people say that we don’t need Pride anymore, or ‘Why don’t we have a Straight Pride march’. But the straight community is not being targeted in the way that the LGBT+ community is being targeted.
“I think individuals seem to be assuming a rhetoric on a number of issues that, not so long ago, was not acceptable.
“Unfortunately, I think this comes from many people who are currently acting as leaders in this country and the world, who are giving licence to that sort of rhetoric – and to some people acting on their prejudices.
“This is not only happening to the LGBT+ community. It is also happening to other communities, such as those who belong to ethnic minorities.
“Leaders need to take responsibility for the rhetoric that they use.”
Cllr Burton-Sampson revealed in the YA last month that Basildon Pride was to seek charity status and create an outreach organisation called Basildon Pride Every Day, which would run education and awareness events.
He said this week that these projects would be taken forward after the Pride Committee’s impending annual general meeting.
In the meantime, the committee has set a date for next year’s Pride festival – September 5, 2020.
*Essex Police said designated hate crime officers and community policing teams worked with LGBT+ support groups to help victims feel safe to speak out and seek assistance.
- The force urged victims to report hate crimes by dialling 101, or 999 in emergencies.
- LGBT+ hate crimes can also be reported online at www.report-it.org.uk.
- Other services include LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop, which can take hate crime reports and can be contacted at 0207 704 2040.
- Stonewall runs an information and support service for hate crime victims, which can be reached at 08000 502020.
- Victim Support, which also offers assistance to hate crime victims, can be contacted at 0808 1781 694.