‘As a Hate Crime Officer, we are there for the victim every step of the way’
18th August 2022
Dani Howlett-Bolton is one of five dedicated Hate Crime Officers at Hertfordshire Police, as part of the local Community Safety Units. Dani covers Watford and Three Rivers, monitoring all hate crimes and incidents and makes contact with the victims to offer support and safeguarding advice. Along with other officers Dani will be representing Herts Police at Herts Pride this weekend, ahead of which she took the time to explain a bit about her role and how hate crime still affects the LGBTQ+ community today.
How significant are hate crime incidents relating to the LGBTQ+ community today?
Dani: Hate crimes can have a significant impact on the victim and they also impact the wider community that they’re part of. It is important to understand what a hate crime is. A hate crime is defined as 'Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.' If an individual from the LGBT+ community (or any of the other protected characteristics) reported a hate crime this would be dealt with accordingly.
The courts can impose more severe sentences for people who have committed a hate crime so it’s really important that victims do come forward and report crimes. As a Hate Crime Officer, we are there for the victim every step of the way.
What sort of hate crime incidents do Hertfordshire Police officers find themselves dealing with?
Dani: Hertfordshire Police officers deal with hate crimes that range from assaults and public order to criminal damage and neighbourhood disputes. We also deal with hate incidents.
How do these crimes affect the victims?
Dani: Every victim is different and hate crime affects victims in different ways. Hate crime can have a devastating effect on the victim, their family and also the community that they belong to. Victims of hate crime can have mixed emotions and feel isolated, vulnerable, angry, frustrated, and embarrassed to name a few. Often they feel a loss of self-worth too. Victims are offered the support that is needed and this can be from the Hate Crime Officer or other support agencies including Beacon, Hertfordshire’s Victim Care Centre.
And how do they affect the officers responding to them?
Dani: Officers are professional when dealing with a hate crime or incident. It is important to remember that officers are also human and they may have experienced being the victim of hate crime themselves so they can relate to how the victim is feeling. Officers are also offered support within the force if they require/want it.
How important is the Pride movement in fighting these sorts of prejudices and associated with hate crimes?
Dani: The Pride Movement is so important as it continues to raise awareness and educate people. It helps to encourage communities to work together within our diverse society. Herts Police have a stall at Herts Pride every year and it’s an important part of our calendar. The stall is run by the constabulary’s LGBT+ network – this is a support group that works to help the county’s LGBT+ community. It achieves this through regular contact with local LGBT+ groups and raising awareness throughout the year about LGBT+ hate crime. Members of the group also give operational advice to colleagues working on cases affecting the LGBT+ community.
And how did your career in the police lead you to become a Hate Crime Officer?
Dani: I have been a police officer with Hertfordshire Police for over 20 years now. I have performed a number of roles within the police. The opportunity arose to join the Community Safety Unit as a Hate Crime Officer in January 2020. I applied and was successful and now I am one of five hate crime officers within Hertfordshire Police. The areas that I am responsible for are Watford and Three Rivers Districts.
How challenging and how rewarding can the role be?
Dani: One of the biggest challenges we face as a Hate Crime Officer is getting victims to report crimes to us. Many feel nervous about doing so or worry that we won’t take them seriously but that is not the case. We will always treat you sensitively and with respect. We recognise that some victims might find it hard to report crimes directly to us but in fact, victims do not have to contact police directly to report a crime. They can report it at a number of third party reporting centres in Hertfordshire or online at www.report-it.org.uk. More information about hate crime and third party reporting centres can be found at www.hertsagainsthate.org.
Ultimately, the role is very rewarding. There is no better feeling than getting justice for a victim, especially when they might have been hesitant to report it in the first place. A large part of my role is helping to educate the public around hate crime and it’s satisfying to think that through this education, you may be helping to prevent crime further down the line.
Hertfordshire Constabulary will handle reports of hate crimes sensitively and victims can access support through the force’s specially trained hate crime officers or via Hertfordshire Victim Care Centre Beacon.