Cumbria Police appoint lesbian and gay liaison officers to encourage hate crime victims to report abuse (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Cumbria Police appoint lesbian and gay liaison officers to encourage hate crime victims to report abuse
12:43pm Wednesday 30th January 2013 in News
CUMBRIA Police is setting up a team of officers to deal with homophobic hate crime in the county.
Twenty 'liaison officers' for the county's lesbian and gay community will be in post from Friday (February 1) to encourage victims of abuse to come forward.
The constabulary is launching the initiative to mark Gay History Month, reflect a national policing scheme and provide victims of hate crime with specially-trained staff who can deal with such crimes sensitively.
A webchat is also planned next month.
A spokesman said: "Police in Cumbria work hard to tackle hate crime and these new roles take over from previous Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual Transgender (LGBT) officers to provide encouragement to victims to have the confidence to come forward."
Temporary Deputy Chief Constable, Michelle Skeer, said: “We know that homophobic and transgender hate crime is often vastly under-reported and we hope that lesbian and gay liaison officers will help us to address this.
“In 2012, there were 36 homophobic crimes reported along with three transgender hate crimes.
“To put this into context, we received 166 reports of race hate crime in the same period.
“We don’t believe that there is a big issue with gay, lesbian or transgender people being targeted in Cumbria – however, these low numbers of reports suggest that victims may not be contacting us, which causes us concern.
“Our new lesbian and gay liaison officers have received special training to increase their understanding of lesbian, gay and transgender issues.
“We have a mix of officers and staff who have received this training and some of them are members of the gay community themselves, so are likely to have a better understanding of the concerns that victims may have.”
As well as being able to access the officers' support by attending any police station or by contacting police on 101, third party reporting centres are also available across the county.
Third party reporting takes away the need for a victim to attend a police station or have any visible presence of police at their home.
Instead, victims or witnesses can report incidents at a number of discreet outlets throughout the county.
More information on third party reporting centres can be found at www.cumbria.police.uk/advice-and-information/reporting-a-crime/hate-crime-and-incidents
Police said staff at the centres were trained to deal with third party reports in a manner that will 'ease any apprehension' victims or witnesses may have in making such reports.
They can also provide support, advice and potentially act as a link between victims and police.
TDCC Skeer added: “Put simply, hate crime is unacceptable, so we are doing all we can to tackle the issue in Cumbria.
“Every incident reported to us is investigated thoroughly and we have measures in place to ensure victims receive the support they need.
“The most important thing is we don’t want victims to suffer in silence.
“We need them to come forward, confide in us and we will do everything possible to ensure offenders are prosecuted so they won’t be targeted again.
“We are hosting a LGBT web chat on February 7 to mark Gay History Month and encourage people from around the county to log on, ask questions or gain advice from the comfort of their homes.
“You don’t have to provide your name so all questions or information will be anonymous.
“Please take the time to log on, have your say and help us to stamp out hate crime in Cumbria.”
The web chat will take place between 6.30pm – 8.30pm on February 7 and will be hosted by some of the county’s new LGBT officers.
A similar web chat last September attracted 70 viewers, 33 comments and 59 'replays' after the discussion closed.
The web chat can be viewed at www.cumbria.police.uk/lgbt
Hate crime can be reported online through the Cumbria Police website at www.cumbria.police.uk or through the True Vision website at www.report-it.org.uk
Victims of transphobic hate crime can also report incidents online at www.tcrime.net
To contact police, or if you would like to speak to your local lesbian and gay liaison officer by phone, call 101.