MONDAY sees the start of Police Scotland’s National Hate Crime Awareness Week, to increase public knowledge of the subject, encourage victims to come forward and empower Scotland to stand up to hate crime.

Hate crime remains a priority in East Lothian and across the whole country, and the campaign seeks to reinforce the message that prejudice based on sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, racial or religious lines will not be tolerated.

As victims of this crime type don’t always think a crime has been committed or believe that ignoring the issue will make it go away, it’s a widely held view that hate crime remains a largely underreported issue and this is something we are seeking to address. The campaign aims to provide a greater understanding to the community and partner agencies about what constitutes hate crime and how it can be reported.

Individuals who think targeting people who are different to them is acceptable behaviour are being forced to think again. Also, those who witness such behaviour are being encouraged not to ignore it.

Our youth community officers and community ward officers in East Lothian are working with schools, youth groups and other organisations to provide inputs on these issues. Officers will also be engaging with East Lothian Council staff, particularly those who work with the public, to help increase their knowledge.

We also have a number of third party reporting sites across the county. Third party reporting seeks to bridge the gap for people who find it difficult or impossible to report such incidents directly to police. At present, all East Lothian Council contact centres are third party reporting sites and this also includes smaller libraries across the county. Our aim is to expand this service even further. If your business or organisation is interested in your staff receiving this training, then please let us know and we can arrange for your staff to receive free training, and your business can be listed as a reporting site.

As area commander for East Lothian my message is clear – police in East Lothian are committed to effectively tackling hate crime and we will continue to work with all communities to encourage victims to report such crimes, to increase confidence and improve on our existing good record of detection.

You can follow the campaign on the Police Scotland Twitter and Facebook pages; there is also further information and information regarding third party reporting sites on the Police Scotland website.