As part of a week-long campaign to raise awareness of hate crime and its impact on victims, their families and communities as a whole, community crime officer PC Simon Day blogs about the skills he developed in teams such as CID and neighbourhood to tackle an escalating neighbour dispute.
The dispute was between the youths of the two families, but as things intensified the rest of the families became involved. Racial and homophobic hate crime strands were targeted across both families and the incidents spiralled to the point where weapons were being used to make threats.
All incidents were linked together by our tactical hate crime lead Sgt James Hart, who identified the need for a dedicated officer to be tasked to the case, and allocated it to me. I knew I had to look at the full picture, investigate each incident and take positive action in order to achieve a successful result.
Building rapport with both parties was vital; treating everyone equally so that I could get to the bottom of the on-going incident.
I had to listen to everyone.
This was not a clear cut case with victims and offenders; all parties had been victims or had victimised others.
I started by interviewing four people under caution and explained the severity of their behaviour and the impact it was having on others. The youths did not take this approach seriously and the behaviour got worse, so they were arrested. They were bailed with strict conditions, restricting contact and access to the road.
After this, the message began to sink in.
However, the CPS unfortunately would not take the case any further and my main concern was that this would result in the situation flaring up again.
I sat down with each party and explained that the police were not simply going to leave the situation, and we would turn up on their doorsteps and enforce further action if this behaviour continued.
Nobody faced prosecution in this case but I walked away from the job feeling that I’d built confidence among the people of this street in the police’s ability to tackle crime. I had earned the respect of both parties and I believe it is simply because I listened to them, treated them equally and like normal people, addressing them in a friendly, approachable manner and taking time to tackle their issues.
The victim felt we as a force had ‘taken them seriously and felt better that this was investigated’, and even the suspects welcomed me into their homes.
Hate crime is a priority for the force and some valuable lessons can be taken from this case.
Prosecution is not the only way to achieve a positive outcome. Other options such as mediation and ASB referrals can also result in a successful solution to a high volume case with increasing threat levels. This case achieved the best outcome by speaking to both parties with courtesy and making them believe their side of the story was important, while maintaining a level head to prevent the situation escalating.
Identifying repeat victims and linking cases together is crucial. This incident could have become a critical incident had Sgt Hart not done this at an early stage. A dedicated problem-solving approach has resolved a difficult case that was damaging the families and the wider community.
If you have experienced hate crime, or have witnessed a hate crime, please report it. In an emergency, dial 999. For all other incidents, dial 101.