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Reports of anti-LGBTQI+ hate crimes soar in South Yorkshire

Information obtained by Now Then shows a 96% increase in hate crimes related to sexual orientation over four years.

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Reports of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes in South Yorkshire have risen dramatically over the last four years, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Now Then.

364 offences were reported to South Yorkshire Police in 2018 that included sexual orientation as a factor. This rose to 443 in 2019, 556 in 2020 and 715 in 2021, an almost 100% increase. In terms of crimes where transphobia was a factor, 75 were reported in 2018, rising to 94 in 2019, dropping to 71 in 2020 but growing again to 106 in 2021. This is a 41% increase.

Some of this rise will be accounted for by more people reporting the crimes they experience, rather than necessarily such a large increase in crime itself. When people feel safer to report hate crimes, this suggests an improving perception of the police as an authority that will take such discrimination seriously. Support from Stop Hate UK no doubt contributes to helping people report, too.

Chief Inspector Mark Goddard, Force Lead for Hate Crime at South Yorkshire Police, told Now Then:

Annual figures show that all hate crime offences are on the rise, including where victim’s perceive sexual orientation and/or transphobia to be a motivating factor. Whilst these motivating factors are not necessarily mutually exclusive, it is both saddening and concerning that there are still people in society who are committing transphobia or homophobia motivated hate crimes.

The rise in reporting is down to a number of factors including better education and previous under-reporting of hate crime. We have worked with our partners to ensure more people have the confidence and awareness to come forward and report this type of crime to us. Hate crime incidents cover a broad range of offending and can occur in everyday, normal situations. We realise that many people may have experienced some form of transphobia or homophobia in their lives and won’t have previously reported it to anyone.

Yet many members of the LGBTQI+ community do not trust the police, with queer venue Dempseys resorting to an open letter to South Yorkshire Police in February:

Dempseys have five door staff during the week, double that on a weekend, because outside we are faced with the worst kind of verbal abuse, offensive weapons, knives, and death threats. Six years ago we told South Yorkshire police that organised crime gangs were infiltrating the area and still they have done nothing. Our requests for urgent assistance (through CCRAC radio and 999) are repeatedly ignored.

Our efforts to engage with South Yorkshire Police have been met with silence. […]

It is a miserable day when the only way to get the police to face up to their shocking performance is through the media. Even harder when we know that the police are going to make life very difficult for us now.

In response, the police did meet with the venue, who were relieved and pleased at the response:

We are delighted that Lauren Poultney, Chief Constable, has been in contact with us, and that our grievances have been treated seriously and promptly by a senior officer. To be honest, we couldn’t have wished for a better response.

Despite this positive reaction from the police to the queer club’s concerns, the overall numbers of anti-LGBT hate crimes are far too high and show that South Yorkshire is not as safe a place for LGBTQI+ people as it could be – and should be.

What’s more, few of these crimes have a perpetrator being charged. Last year, the Sheffield Star found that: “Less than three per cent of hate crimes have resulted in a charge when it comes to offences relating to sexual orientation (2.8%), disability (2.98%) and religion (2.7%).”

Even more disturbingly, despite 11 transphobic incidents being reported in the first half of 2021, “No transgender-related hate crimes have resulted in a charge.”

Mark Goddard from South Yorkshire Police went on:

We continue to work hard to engage with local communities to encourage them to report any incidents of hate crime and to work towards tackling these issues. Working alongside partners, a number of third party referral centres have been set up to take reports of hate crimes across South Yorkshire so we can encourage more people to report hate crimes in their communities and we can continue the conversation around hate crime and how to prevent it. We also have four Hate Crime Co-ordinators working to tackle these issues who are actively involved in collaborating with partner agencies to create effective joined-up working.

I want to reassure people that all forms of homophobia and transphobia have no place here in South Yorkshire, and any complaint made to us will be taken extremely seriously and treated with the utmost respect. I would encourage anyone who is experiencing verbal abuse, harassment, intimidation or violence to report it to us so that we can tackle it effectively.

For Sheffield’s queer community to be safe in the city, whether they’re partying, shopping or just living their lives, this dramatic rise in hate crimes – and failure to apprehend and charge perpetrators – must be reversed. Resources must be committed to changing attitudes as well as simply avoiding the worst crimes, and this must go far beyond law enforcement into community initiatives and schools.

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