Council to train hate crime champions

Susan Fajana-Thomas

Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas, cabinet member for community safety. Photograph: Hackney Council. Free for use by partners of BBC news wire service

Residents will be recruited to become hate crime champions as part of a strategy to help keep people safe in Hackney.

The council plans to encourage people from across the borough’s diverse community to get involved.

Cabinet member for community safety, Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas, said the champions will be “a visible, supporting presence in our Hackney communities and to act as the main point of contact for anyone wanting to discuss a hate crime or get advice.”

They will get training and will help encourage “greater cultural understanding to celebrate the diversity of Hackney”.

There were 1,077 hate crimes in Hackney between November 2022 and October 2023.

This is a decrease from the 1,101 hate crimes recorded between November 2021 and October 2022.

March launch

The new scheme will be launched in March next year and is part of Hackney Council’s new hate crime strategy agreed by the cabinet on Monday 27 November.

It comes as Hackney Council and the police increased community safety patrols because of the conflict in Israel and Gaza to reassure Hackney’s Jewish and Muslim communities.

There has been an increase in anti-semitic and Islamophobic attacks in London since the conflict in the Middle East reignited in October.

Anti-semitic hate crimes in Hackney increased by 318 per cent between September and October, when police recorded 67 incidents.

Red paint was daubed outside two Jewish schools in Woodberry Down and Lordship Road.

During the same period police recorded a 350 per cent increase in Islamophobic hate crime in Hackney, with nine incidents reported to them.

Mayor ‘aware’

Mayor Caroline Woodley told the cabinet meeting: “We will never allow prejudice to divide our communities.”

She said: “I am acutely aware of the aggressions faced by women who are visibly women of faith.

“We need to be good neighbours, show solidarity and learn how to be safely active bystanders whenever we see someone subjected to abuse.”

Her comments came at the end of Islamophobia Awareness Month which aims to showcase Muslims’ contribution to society and tackle prejudice.

Hackney Council is also setting up a hate crime forum made up of community members to discuss concerns and deal with them, as part of its hate crime strategy.

Other plans include tackling attitudes and beliefs which can lead to hate crime through the Heartstone project in schools. It aims to teach pupils how  to challenge and report hate crime.

Fajana-Thomas pledged to ensure survivors of hate crime get regular updates on the progress of their case.

The council hopes to build community trust and confidence by supporting victims of hate.

Motion passed

Back in March this year, a motion proposed by Labour’s Cllr Clare Potter and backed by the Greens’ Zoë Garbett was agreed at a meeting of full council.

It stated: “This council believes in equity of opportunity and that human rights are the bedrock of our society.

“Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are non-binary.

“We believe in the dignity of all people, and their right to respect and equity of opportunity.

“We value the strength that comes with difference and the positive contribution diversity brings to our community.

“Our aspiration is for Hackney to be a safe, welcoming, and an inclusive borough for everyone, no matter their gender identity or gender expression.”