Sussex Police is reminding the public that hate crime will not be tolerated in the county.
Superintendent Rachel Swinney, the Force Hate Crime lead, said: “The impact of coronavirus is widespread and is affecting most of us in some way.
“We have seen many communities coming together to help and support each other however there may still be people who are being targeted simply for being who they are.
“I would like people to feel confident in reporting matters of hate crime to us. We are committed to treating victims with respect and empathy, incidents and any reports will be taken seriously.
“I am aware there has been an increase nationally towards the Chinese/Asian communities. We have been fortunate not to see the same trend locally but as lockdown measures ease this may change. I urge anyone who may have suffered a hate crime to report it.
“I would also like to reinforce the message that it’s not just victims who can report hate crime; witnesses are vital and can play their part too by reporting any incidents seen. We work closely with partner agencies to ensure both victims and witnesses reporting a hate crime receive the relevant support.”
The Force participate in the national awareness weeks for hate crime which aim to raise understanding of what hate crime is. These advice weeks are a platform to encourage victims to report matters of hate crime to us to ensure support is provided and the relevant action is taken against the perpetrators.
Supt Swinney added: “A hate crime doesn’t always include physical violence. Someone using offensive language towards you or harassing you because of who you are, or who they think you are is also a crime. This includes circumstances whereby someone posts abusive or offensive messages.
“Last month we were called to a shoplifting offence at a shop in a Brighton shopping centre. On arrival it was reported the suspect allegedly racially abused a security guard.
“Ishmal Mohammed, 24, of no fixed address was charged with using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress, two counts of racially or religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress in words or writing. He was released on court bail until 29 May.
“The severity of hate crime offences has also been acknowledged by the courts and judges can impose a higher sentence if hate crime is one of the offences recorded.”
Hate crime can be reported to us by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency. For those who wish to report online, you can do so here.
People who are hard of hearing or speech-impaired can text 65999 or TypeTalk on 18000. You can also report via True Vision, a national website operated by the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
There is also a range of support agencies to whom you can report – for more details, please see our website.
If you have been a victim of hate crime you can also find support online at Safe:Space Sussex, a directory of local specialist services to help people find all the information they need here.