Most people are committed to the creation of a more inclusive society in which people are treated equally regardless of their colour, religion or creed. Tackling racially motivated crime is central to that commitment. Providing the right legislative tools to tackle this evil is part of the answer. However legislation alone will not solve the problem of racial violence and harassment. It must be addressed in the context of improving race relations generally.
When considering the racial aspects of a crime, the police need to take into account not only crimes which are obviously racially motivated but also those which occur in areas with a high concentration of people of minority ethnic origin, involve a victim from a minority group or a suspect from that group.
In order to tackle racially motivated crime a more holistic approach needs to be taken which recognises the long term underlying factors of criminality and racism. More specifically this involves the intervention with identified perpetrators, potential perpetrators (for example school bullies, young people and problem families) and the perpetrator community.
There are three broad models for the police to investigate racial incidents: a dedicated racial incident unit, where dedicated officers deal with all racial incidents which are reported to the area; a system where all front line officers deal with racial incidents; or a combination of the two, whereby a unit oversees the investigation of racial incidents but the investigation is conducted by front line officers who seek advice and assistance from the specialised unit. It is essential that this is underpinned by all front-line officers being trained to deal with racial incidents.
In the United Kingdom the Home Office established the Racial Incidents Standing Committee in 1997 to continue the work of the Racial Attacks Group (which was set up by the Home Office in the late 1980s in the light of increasing concern among the police and others about racially motivated crime). Its first report, "the Response to Racial Attacks and Harassment: guidance for the statutory agencies" was published in 1989, and set the tone for the local multi-agency response to racial crime. Its second report "Sustaining the Momentum", published in 1991, re-affirmed the idea of local solutions being found for local problems. Its third report "Taking Steps", which was published in 1996, described how the practical work which needed to be done locally had to be supported by some clear appreciation at the centre, of the problems which those local groups faced in seeking to resolve those local issues.
Minority ethnic communities should have the confidence to report racial incidents to the police in the knowledge that they will be recorded and pursued properly.
Although it should be recognised that there may be circumstance in which the victim may not wish the matter to be dealt with formally, police officers should not discourage victims from bringing charges in favour of administrating informal warnings, particularly in a case where repeat victimisation is an issue. This is also entirely commensurate with the view that incidents of racial harassment, at whatever level, will not be tolerated by the police service.