The Towards a Better Future conference starts today in Belfast. Writing for Slugger, the Assistant Chief Constable of the PSNI, Stephen Martin, writes about policing and hate crime
Since May 2014, we have arrested 95 people and charged 46 of them with offences linked to hate crimes in the Belfast area. This sends out a clear message that those who commit hate crimes will face consequences.
However, none of this will address the underlying causes of the hatred which we see manifested in our communities.
I believe that looking at a purely policing solution to hate crime misses the point.
In describing how the Police Service could more effectively police with the community, the Patten Report outlined a number of essential themes. One of these themes is Partnership and I believe it is key.
Such a critical issue for this region as Hate Crime deserves a joined up response from a Multi-Agency partnership with the range of skills and perspectives necessary to build a safer, more confident society which welcomes diversity.
So how do we do that?
As Mike Hardy pointed out in his Blog, we firstly need to effectively understand the problem. Support and assistance from local researchers and academics can help us get to the heart of it and understand the economic, social and cultural factors which lead to the visible outworkings of hatred.
Then we need to collectively respond. By building strong partnerships, empowered and capable to address the identified issues, we can start to make effective interventions, providing lasting solutions which increase awareness and confidence in all communities.
So how do we build these teams? I think it is significant that this Event has been hosted by the Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership and the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building. I believe that, under the new Local Government arrangements, PCSPs have a real opportunity to provide leadership and energy in building strong partnerships to challenge and counter intolerance and hate crimes in our communities.
This role will be supported by the advent of Community Planning. From April 2015, the new Councils will be responsible for developing a Community Plan in conjunction with partners, with a view to creating a shared vision for their area, a long term vision which relates to all aspects of community life. I strongly believe that the PCSPs can play a key role in coordinating the Community Safety element of any such Plans.
Community Planning is perhaps the primary driver for our decision to mirror the new Council boundaries. My District Commanders will be empowered to support the Council Chief Executives in developing and delivering effective Community Plans, focused on improving local service delivery and enabling real improvements in the quality of life for all communities in Northern Ireland.
I am in no doubt that effective Community Planning, if fully embraced, will help build a powerful Partnership response to the hatred that we have seen. In doing so, I believe that we can build a safer, fairer, more confident community in Northern Ireland. The PSNI is up for the challenge.