Force to launch hate crime initiative

A POLICE force will today launch a network of special units to crack down on hate crime and domestic violence.The formation of the Domestic Violence and Hate Crime Units (DVHCUs) is designed to help Essex Police target attacks or discrimination inspired by race, sexuality, disability, age, religion or gender.

By Roddy Ashworth

A POLICE force will today launch a network of special units to crack down on hate crime and domestic violence.

The formation of the Domestic Violence and Hate Crime Units (DVHCUs) is designed to help Essex Police target attacks or discrimination inspired by race, sexuality, disability, age, religion or gender.

The terrorist strikes on the London Underground in July and subsequent reports of discrimination have put the issue of hate crime back in the media spotlight.

The new units have been set up in Essex's nine main towns - Braintree, Chelmsford, Clacton, Colchester, Basildon, Grays, Harlow, Rayleigh and Southend - and will "encourage and support victims while at the same time bringing offenders to justice."

Each DVHCU has a team of police officers and staff who are specially trained to tackle the menace of hate crime and domestic violence in local communities.

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The Criminal Justice Board is helping police promote the drive to stamp out hate crime and domestic violence by producing a series of leaflets, posters and other educational tools that will aim to bring the new DVHCUs to the attention of those people who may need their help.

Assistant Chief Constable Liam Brigginshaw said he hoped the promotional items would act as an offer of a "helping hand" to victims across Essex.

"There is no doubt that hate crime exists within the county and there is still a lack of confidence among victims to report their attacks," Mr Brigginshaw said.

"Prejudice and ignorance drive many of the crimes, including domestic ones, but ignorance is no excuse and we aim, through this launch, to ensure everyone is fully aware of the issues, distress and long-term trauma that such incidents can cause."

In 2004, there were 960 hate crime complaints to the force, of which 658 were assaults and 158 were related to criminal damage.

In the first eight months of 2005, Essex Police has received a total of 609 hate crime complaints, of which 424 were assaults and 98 related to criminal damage.

Chair of Essex Criminal Justice Board, Mike Littlewood, said: "We, and all of the criminal justice agencies such as the police, courts, Crown Prosecution Service, probation and youth offending services, take a robust stance against hate crime and domestic abuse.

"We want to make sure victims and witnesses of such offences know where they can report crime and get the support they need."

As well as contacting their DVHCUs by telephoning their local police station, victims can report their ordeal to www.report-it.org.uk.

Police will also be promoting the existence and work of DVHCUs at a multi-cultural event at Saffron Walden's Audley End House on September 18.

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