Essex: Rise in hate crime linked to welfare reform and deeper-rooted prejudices

REPEAT crimes against vulnerable adults in Essex have more than doubled in just a year, new figures reveal.

The offences, which include hate crime, leapt to 433 in April and May of this year, compared with 182 over the same period in 2011.

Nationally disability hate crimes have doubled since the start of the financial crisis, up to nearly 2,000 in 2011.

Essex Coalition for Disabled People (ECDP) said the increase was partly down to better reporting.

But the ECDP’s Faye Savage, who has done a lot of work on disability hate crime, said there is anecdotal evidence to support a link to welfare reform.

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She said the focus on disability benefits in the media has led to deeper-rooted prejudices.

She added: “There was a big concern – even when welfare reform first began – that the media was perceiving that disabled people were not going to work and that breeds resentment.”

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Michael Adams, chief executive of ECDP, said the increase could also be linked to a hike in crime during the recession.

“I’m not old enough to remember the last recession but I don’t know whether it’s linked to wider economic factors,” he said.

“It might be some of the hate crime is specifically just hate crime or it might be in tandem with other crimes.”

He added: “I think one of the biggest issues for disabled people in Essex is hate crime and we have been working with Essex Police about how to best to support them. One of the reasons for the spike in numbers is a greater confidence in reporting.”

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “We have been focusing on ensuring we capture all domestic abuse-related incidents and those relating to vulnerable adults.

“It also seeks to ensure that when the risk to individuals is being assessed by police this is being done while in possession of the best possible intelligence picture as to the course of victimisation and offending.

“From a statistical point of view much of this effort will register as an apparent increase in repeat offending. It is however a clear indication of greater responsiveness on the part of Essex Police to the risks inherent in these disturbing crimes.”

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