“Hate crime hurts the victim more than other forms of crime, as it hits against the very core of the person’s sense of self and identity.”
So describes hate crime professor Jon Garland, head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey. Researcher Jon Garland focuses on hate crime from the victim’s perspective. Professor Garland says hate crime is committed to make a clear difference between “us” and those that are “different”. The victims are chosen because of their identity in the eyes of the perpetrator.
Usually the group that represents difference from the perpetrators point of view is already marginalized in the society. Hate crime aims to maintain the cultural status or benefits that the perpetrator represents, says professor Garland.
Hate crime can also be done to send a message: you and others like you are not welcome here.
Who are the perpetrators?
Professor Jon Garland says that hate crime shakes the victim’s fundamental sense of safety and even destroys it for a period of time.
Researcher Jon Garland emphasizes that even if we commonly think that the perpetrators of hate crime are usually an organized group, actually they can be anyone. At the monet Garland is worried about the crime targeting migrants across Europe. He says one of the reasons for the increase in this type of crime is the rise of populist parties, which have brought racism from the marginal to the mainstream.
On the other hand on EU-level action has been taken to tackle hate crime and hate speech. The commission has set a European Union High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance and to look into hate crime punishments across EU.
Who are the victims?
Victims of hate crime often have a history of being marginalized based on their ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. There are also victim groups officially recognized by the law. For example in Finland hate crime gives grounds for a harsher punishment.
Hate crime definition is how ever not simple. Law does not unambiguously recognize all groups, for example victims of hate crime can be also sex workers or homeless, elderly or members of a sub culture. Should these groups be listed as hate crime victims so that crimes targeted towards them can be subjected to harder punishments?
For example in England The Sophie Lancaster Foundation is campaigning successfully to get Goth sub culture listed as vulnerable group to hate crime. Young Goth Sophie Lancaster died after an assault in 2007. As attackers responsible for her death received their punishment, the judge labeled the crime as hate crime. Victim had been singled out because of her appearance.
London tackles hate crime
Of all crime in UK and Wales, a quarter happen in London. In a multicultural metropolis cultural clashes are bound to happen. But hate crime goes massively unreported, says Programme Manager Natasha Plummer from London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
”40 percent of hate crime happen without reporting”, says Natasha Plummer. “That means that we have thousands of hate crimes in this city that go without report to the police. And even if the victim begins the justice process, they often don’t complete it. We have to think of ways to support the victim better, so that they can commit to the often long justice and court process.”
The fastest growing type of crime in UK is online crime. Also hate crime happens over the internet. The police however in many European countries is powerless, as the amount of postings and messages is too big to thoroughly cover.
Use your mobile to report hate crime
Programme Manager James Tate from London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime tells that in London easier ways to report hate crime have been developed. The reasons why hate crime goes in so many cases unreported are many, James Tate describes. Most commonly the victim does not trust the police. They think the report does not lead to anything actually happening.
At the Mayor’s Office this was seen as a serious problem. Result was an app, where hate crime can be reported immediately, as soon as it happens or as soon as the victims feels safe to do so.
“The app is free and widely available”, James Tate describes it. “You can report to the police, record a statement, record evidence and contact victim support”, James Tate explains.
As the app reports hate crime to the police, the gps of the mobile lets police know where the crime happened and a unit can be immediately sent if needed. So far the app has been quite widely downloaded, but used just to report 200 cases in its first year. Of the hate crime actually happening, that is just a fraction.
Editor: Anna Gustafsson