PCC Blog 63

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, hate crime has been falling in recent years; but not in South Yorkshire.

Here, there were 3,368 hate crimes and hate incidents in the year to March 2021, an increase of 15% over the previous year. But this was seen by the force as good rather than bad because they believed it indicated not a rise in incidents and crime but an increase in reporting. People were having the confidence to tell the police what had happened to them and the police were correctly recording this. So although hate crime figures were up, this was good.

The National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) seem to have agreed. South Yorkshire police (SYP) volunteered to have its hate crime work reviewed by the NPCC. They looked at 100 cases and complimented the force on the standard of the investigations.

But this does create something of a dilemma as we try to interpret the statistics. Is an increase in hate crime good or bad?

I imagine that in those police force areas where hate crime fell, police and crime commissioners and chief constables will be telling their public about the great job they are doing in getting (recorded) hate crime down. While we are saying what a great job we are doing in getting the figures for recorded hate crimes up!

So are those who are congratulating themselves on reducing hate crime simply kidding themselves – and the public – because actually they are not recording all incidents and crimes? People do not have confidence in their force to report. Or are we kidding ourselves in South Yorkshire if we think that hate crimes have not really gone up, it’s just that more people are willing to contact the police and report than in the past, and perhaps more willing here than in other parts of the country? And either way, how can we be certain that we are really reducing hate crime and hate incidents?

I am not sure that I know the answer to that, but perhaps someone who reads this blog does – and will help me out. Because if we don’t know how to interpret the statistics, how do we hold the police, in any part of the country, to account?

Unity in diversity

I was out and about again last week in various parts of the county.

One memorable visit was to the Unity Gym in Sheffield, part of the voluntary sector. The gym is centrally located in Wellington Street and draws young people from many parts of the inner city. So the day I was there I saw people from most of the ethnic groups that make up the diverse population of today’s Sheffield, especially in some of the more deprived areas.

Unity Gym is one of the groups that has received funding in the latest grants round from the Violence Reduction Unit. This will enable the team of volunteers to expand and improve the current portfolio of services they offer. These include: daily, all-day access to gym facilities (really important), a weekly youth club, a club for girls, weekend football sessions and one-to-one mentoring.

But what was so impressive about the young people I met was how they were all at pains to say this was more than a youth club. Each seemed to have a story to tell. For one, if the gym did not exist he knew he would have found himself drawn into the world of gangs and crime. For another, the leaders were role models – people of the same ethnic minority as himself – where none otherwise existed for him. And another said it was the first place where he felt really listened to and it had inspired him to make something of himself: he knew now that he could do something positive in and with his life. They were remarkable testimonials.

The Managing Director, Saeed Brasab, seems to be there for the young people not only each day and each evening, but at the end of a phone whenever they need help or support. This is not nine to five work, and cries for help come at inconvenient moments. Saeed also plays a significant wider role in the city, helping to co-ordinate initiatives with other partners, including the police.

I came away with a great deal to reflect on, not least how very dependent we are all the time in so many of our communities on relatively small numbers of people who are willing to give such commitment to helping young people whose choices in life can often seem so limited. Saeed and his fellow workers open the eyes of young people so that they can see possibilities for themselves that they would not otherwise have guessed. And young people accept this leadership because the leaders themselves were once in the place where the young people are.

It just seems so wrong that such vital work, undertaken by such vital people, is all the time only as secure as the next round of grant funding.

Good ends and dead ends

There’s a national and local shortage of detectives. It’s not hard to see why – once you think about the reality and rid yourself of the television image of the lone inspector who thinks his or her way to a solution despite the sergeant who always gets the wrong end of any stick that’s going.

Unlike some police work, investigating crimes in a timely fashion is not containable in shifts.

It’s no nine to five job. It’s hard to handover to others and take annual leave. It will involve working closely with colleagues and it can be quite intensive, especially if you have a limited number of hours to hold or charge someone. It can be all-consuming and hard to lay aside when you do go home.

Conversely, I think it must be very satisfying – to take a case through from crime to court and to get a good result. There must be real satisfaction in joining all the dots and seeing a pattern gradually or suddenly fall into place as each member of the team makes their contribution.

In some ways the job makes me think of the times when I wrote (non-fiction) books. It’s ninety per cent perspiration and one per cent inspiration. But the hardest part of all is to realise that the material you are working with does not lead to the result you thought it would. Letting go of what you thought was a brilliant theory and starting again is the hardest part. Sometimes you have to recognise that a line of enquiry is actually a cul-de-sac.

Stay safe and well.