Hate crime destroys lives.
Sometimes in an explosion of violence that leaves someone broken, bleeding and dying on our streets. More often it happens over years as a result of daily verbal abuse, damage to property, watching your children be bullied and abused or “minor” assaults.
When your confidence in your ability to go about life in safety is gone then you end up as much a prisoner as if you were behind bars. You can’t take up opportunities for employment, achievement or leisure that many of us take for granted.
It’s not only the victim who suffers. It’s their family, their friends, the wider community – in the end we are all diminished by hate crime.
When you deal with the consequences you cannot help but be angered by those who talk of “political correctness” and “pandering to the whims of minorities”. The police cannot be successful on their own. Everyone must be part of the effort to make this country intolerant of hate. Reporting incidents, challenging attitudes, joining community organisations and activities that bring people together – all part of the solution.
There is a particular challenge to young people who want to be leaders and role models. The majority of hate crime we record is where younger people abuse staff in places where goods or services are provided. The vile language and damage to property demonstrates attitudes that can lead to even more serious offending.
Far from stigmatising young people, we are reliant on the leadership qualities we see in so many of our young citizens to influence the debate and the attitudes of a small minority of their peers.
• Steven Allen is Lothian and Borders Deputy Chief Constable