Disability Hate Crimes Rising Astronomically in England, New Report Finds

people in the street in LondonThe Number of Hate Crimes in England, Wales Rose Sharply in 2017-2018 Period

It’s difficult for most people to wrap their heads around. How is it possible that hate crimes could still take place in the US and England in 2018? So often we think of modern society in the United States and the United Kingdom as being progressively advanced that it’s surprising to us when we hear about hate crimes taking place. But they sadly do, and when they involve people with disabilities, the stories can be even more heartbreaking.

Hate crimes of all types have been on the rise in the United States in recent years, with a twelve percent increase in America’s biggest cities in 2017 alone. But for our cousins across the pond in England and Wales, a particularly gruesome uptick in hate crimes against people with disabilities has just been revealed.

Alarming statistics revealed by United Response show that disability hate crimes in England and Wales rose by one third last year, an astronomical surge that wouldn’t have been uncovered had it not been for a Freedom of Information request filed by United Response, which only thirty-two out of forty-three police forces in the UK responded to. Which in turn means the numbers are likely even higher.

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The uncovered statistics revealed that a total of 5,342 disability hate crimes took place in England and Whales between 2017 and 2018, not counting those eleven police forces that did not submit their data. In the previous year, 4,005 offenses were recorded, which means this latest tally represents a staggering 33 percent rise in disability hate crimes.

The United Response numbers show that violent hate crimes — including physical assaults, stalking, harassment, and more — rose 17 percent. Sexual offenses doubled, and public order offenses rose two thirds. But cases involving fraud saw the single biggest increase of any category, rising from four cases to forty-six, marking a 1,050 percent increase.

West Yorkshire experienced the most hate crimes, 536 in all, of the various regions reporting. Meanwhile, Gloucestershire and Humberside saw the biggest increases in that period, rising 167 percent and 132 percent respectively.

“It beggars belief that that there are people out there who are targeting some of society’s most vulnerable people and doing them harm,” says United Response hate crime lead Joanne Silkstone. “This is unacceptable and we all must do everything we can to empower those who suffer this type of appalling abuse and discrimination to speak out.”

Hate crimes against people with disabilities are likely higher still than these numbers reflect. “Many people with learning disabilities, Down’s syndrome or autism may not recognize the abuse they’ve experienced as a hate crime or may lack the confidence to report these crimes to the authorities,” United Response says.

“Victims must know that they need not suffer in silence,” Silkstone says. “With the right tools, we can help them to report these crimes to the police when they do experience hate crimes.”

“Often this is a hidden and under-reported crime,” explains United Response CEO Tim Cooper. “Victims can sometimes lack the confidence in coming forward and reporting their experiences to the authorities. Sometimes they don’t realize they have been a victim of hate crime. That is why it is crucial to equip people with disabilities with the knowledge they need to stand up to bullies and bigots.”

United Response is working with West Yorkshire Police to help train their staff in how best to assist individuals with disabilities. They hope to teach people with disabilities how to recognize and report hate crimes as well.

West Yorkshire Police will host a pilot program in concert with United Response that will provide training to support workers on how they can discuss hate crimes with people with disabilities and help identify hate crimes more easily. Should the program be a success, they hope to roll that program out nationwide.

Meanwhile, Data on Hate Crimes is Hard to Come By in America

United Response’s work in England highlights America’s own lack of comprehensive data regarding hate crimes involving people with disabilities.

Organizations in the United States like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) track hate groups and hate crimes, but by their own admission the statistics they gather are lacking with regards to hate crimes impacting people with disabilities.

In a piece published by the SPLC earlier this year, the group noted large disparities in statistics provided by the Bureau of Justice and the FBI. These discrepancies are mostly blamed on local and state law enforcement agencies, who are not required to report hate crimes to the Uniform Crime Reporting program.

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“We still get statistics from the FBI where all these major jurisdictions don’t report any hate crimes,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, while speaking with the SPLC earlier this year. “I mean, Jacksonville, Florida? Miami? Zero hate crimes? We are constantly going back to these jurisdictions and saying, ‘Really? A major city didn’t have hate crimes against anybody?’ That’s pretty hard to believe.”

Violence & Abuse Subcommittee of the National Council on Independent Living  co-chair Kim Brittenham was also interviewed by the SPLC for their piece, in which she stated “For a long time, people with disabilities have been invisible when it comes to reporting about crime. The national crime victim surveys include people with disabilities but doesn’t include people with disabilities who are in group homes or living in institutions or hospitals. So, while the number of victims of violent crimes is much greater for people with disabilities, still, a lot of people with disabilities are largely invisible in the statistics.”

Whether the issues in England and Wales uncovered by United Response are also happening in the United States isn’t really known. And until the US government makes a concerted effort to compile detailed statistics regarding hate crimes impacting people with disabilities, these “invisible hate crimes,” as the SPLC labels them, have no hope of really being addressed at scale.

by Matt Terzi


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