Following on from the Open Space event earlier on this year, community safety and in particular hate crime was an important topic that was raised as a major concern for some local people. The Digital Sentinel met up with CI Dolan to ask a few questions.
You can listen to the interview here:
If you can’t listen to the interview then you can read the whole interview below.
What does the Police consider as a hate crime? Can you break it down for us?
First of all it has to be a crime, so if someone commits a crime for example vandalism, or an assault – there has to be a substantive crime and the hate element to that is, if someone shows malice or ill will – this is the wording of the law, towards a social group, so, that can be someone of a certain ethnicity, it can be someone who is disabled, it can be a number of different criteria or people from different backgrounds etc.
A hate crime is essentially a substantive crime, and the reason they have done that is because they have shown malice or ill will towards that person or the group that they are from then that becomes a hate crime.
There are other offences that if you act in a certain way that can be a hate crime in itself for example if you shout abuse at someone and that is done in a racially abusive manner then that itself can be a hate crime and we will investigate that to the fullest extent. Unfortunately those crimes happen fairly regularly in this area.
What are the Police trying to do to raise awareness of reporting hate crime in the area?
We are doing this face to face with a number of people, we are trying to engage with people from a range of different backgrounds. Police Scotland recently ran a national hate crime campaign to raise awareness on a number of different subjects. We did a week long campaign on each subject. We used national media to promote this on disability hate crime, hate crime in relation to sexual orientation and other protected characteristics. We raised awareness through that; we are engaging with members of the public through SCOREscotland for example who are very active in the local area, and we would refer most victims if we are able to, to SCOREscotland who have caseworkers who can provide really sound advice to victims of hate crime. We also try and get our community officers to engage with community councils as wel. Community councils we think represent the community and it would be good for us to be able to share knowledge with community councils about what hate crime exists in their area. The presence of police officers and SCOREscotland representatives at those meetings has been particularly useful because that does widen that knowledge which previously hasn’t existed. There is also a local group which is attended by councillors, community council reps, including reps from SCOREscotland which discuss crime in the area and hate crime is now a standing agenda item at those meetings. This again is an opportunity to raise awareness of hate crime amongst community members and elected members to make sure everyone is aware the impact hate crime has in the area.
Are there any local operations running in the area in relation to community safety?
There is nothing specifically at the moment. We did have two officers committed full time to dealing with hate crime but that was changed for other reasons. There is a desire in general to get back to that and that is hopefully something that might happen in the next few months and we are continually reviewing how we commit our resources to various subjects to try and target those who are our highest priority. Hate crime is a high priority and always has been and always will be but we have to target our resources to meet our local priorities. Hate crime is clearly a part of that and we continually revise our how we commit resources to deal with that.
Every hate crime that is not solved at the time it is reported is allocated to one of our community police officers and it is then their job to investigate that fully and to bring that to a successful conclusion.
The other thing I would say is that hate crime is the only crime type that we deal with, that as the Chief inspector of this area; I personally review every single report and it cannot be closed until I have given my personal approval. We have done absolutely done everything to trace the offender and support the victim and to consider the community impact and community needs.
What is the solvency rate for hate crime in the area?
We want people to know how we are performing in the area. It’s not something we want to keep a secret. The figures I have here cover the whole of the West and Pentlands area. From April this year, 2015 until today, we have had 191 hate crime reported. The majority of the hate crimes reported are Race hate crimes but there are also crimes in there that are related to disability and other areas that I mentioned earlier on.
From those 191 hate crimes, we have solved 128 cases, so that is 67% of all hate crimes recorded as solved. I would say that is an improvement from previous years (3-5 years) although there is still room for further improvement. I would say that if people were reporting hate crime in this area, that there is a high chance that we would find the offender and we would report that offender for a possible prosecution. We will turn every stone possible to find the offender.
We are now going through a process with the procurator fiscal to track the process of the cases that we have reported through the criminal justice process. It’s not something that has been done anywhere else before but the procurator fiscal is working with us in West and Pentlands to monitor the progress of these cases to give us and the community some comfort that these cases are being treated as seriously as they can be.
Do you get repeat cases?
We get repeat victims and we get repeat offenders. Thankfully we don’t have too many in this particular area. Many of the repeat victims have jobs that are public facing, shopkeepers, private hire car drivers and also security staff in shops and other premises. They are probably in a job like that and that’s where they are being victimised. Otherwise we do have people who are living locally and are repeat victims of hate crime and we work closely with other agencies and other partners to try and give them the support and guidance. We can to try and reduce the chance of them becoming a victim again. One of the ways we try to do that is we have the capacity to release body worn cameras to shop staff and we have done that on a number of occasions in this area, sometimes it has paid off and sometimes it hasn’t. The other way I suggest we deal with repeat victims is through the support offered by SCOREscotland and meeting the needs of particular victims.
Is there is a message you could send to victims who think hate crime isn’t serious enough to involve the police?
If you are thinking in your mind that it might be a hate crime and you aren’t sure, let us make that decision for you. If its serious enough that its troubling you or your family please tell us. We can’t make a difference in the community and helping individuals live their life as peacefully as they can without knowing what’s happening. We can only help if we know. My overriding message would be please report it to us. We will take it very seriously. I will personally review every single incident every day when it’s reported. Every hate crime I review at the start, I monitor as its going on and I review it as its completed. We do treat these things seriously. If you are in doubt let us make that decision for you.
You have people that mistrust the police, what message would you send to them to try and gain their trust?
I think we can probably only do that on a personal level. I think what I would try to do is encourage people to lift the phone, pop into a station send us an email or visit the website. If you report it to us we will come and visit you we will spend as much time as it takes and hopefully through our personal interaction with you we will give you that confidence that we will deal with this properly.
On reporting hate crimes, can you just tell us the different ways people can report a hate crime incident?
Absolutely, the first way is to phone 999, if it’s an emergency or an urgent incident please don’t hesitate to phone 999. If it’s a non-urgent incident and its not on going at the time 101 is another option. Wester Hailes Police Station is another option as is Corstorphine Police Station during office hours for the latter station. Visit our website or you can send us an email. There is also a facility to report it through a third party. We have a thing called remote reporting. SCOREscotland is an agency locally which is a remote reporting facility. This means that members of the public who maybe don’t want to come straight to the police whatever that reason might be, can go to a third party centre. It’s always useful if we can deal with the person on a one to one basis but there is that facility to remain anonymous if that is the preference of the person involved.
What advice would you give to those people who are on public transport and an incident happens to them and they think they shouldn’t report it because there are no witnesses?
My advice to them would be, please report it. Now and again we get reports of incidents on public transport that includes hate crimes and other sorts of antisocial behaviour. The plus point for us in Edinburgh is that Lothian Buses have involved a lot of time and money on installing CCTV facilities onto buses. Quite often our experience is that if we get reports of a crime on a bus in Edinburgh quite often we get some success on tracing the people who are involved. Primarily through witness evidence or CCTV evidence. If you are the victim of something and you are using public transport and I would include trams in this as well I would encourage you to come forward, report it to us and like any other hate crime we will investigate that as much as we possibly can. The other thing that we now have in place is a police officer dedicated to the policing of public transport in Edinburgh. It is a joint initiative between Police Scotland and Transport for Edinburgh and we have an officer dedicated to the policing of the public transport network. She is in a position to assist us everyday to investigate incidents that happen on public transport and that would include hate crimes.
The message from me is if you are not sure to report something, its happened on a bus for example and you are not sure if its a hate crime or not. Let us make that decision for you and if it is something we can investigate we will do so to our fullest extent.
Lastly, is there anything you would like to add?
One of the things I would like to add is something that I would call bystander and I think that might be something maybe a lot of people haven’t heard of. What that means to me is if I am walking along the road and I see somebody being abused, and that might be racially abused or abused for other reasons, do I keep walking or do I do something about it? I would encourage members of our community to do something about it and that doesn’t mean automatically jumping in and intervening, that might mean just standing and observing and phoning the police or something more active in terms of speaking to somebody nearby to encourage other witnesses to come forward as well.
I would encourage members of the community to not ignore it because next time it could happen to you or a member of your family or somebody else that you care dearly about. Lets stamp this out together, lets not be bystanders and ignore this kind of thing happening. Do something about it, observe if you think its safe to and let us know what’s happening.
The big message I think I would like to get across is if we don’t know about it we can’t help.