Police records of hate crime in Australia have been analysed for the first time by University of Sydney researchers.The study of hate crime patterns in New South Wales found more than 70 per cent of religiously-motivated crimes targeted Muslims with Jews the second most victimised group.
It's a report which casts a spotlight on hate crimes in the country. The study, undertaken by Criminology Professor Gail Mason, has revealed the prevalence of race and religion-based hate crimes - according to official records held by New South Wales Police.
The reason this study is particularly comprehensive is because it's the first time that we've actually analysed bias crime or hate crime data held by the NSW Police Force, but in addition to that it, also compares that data to what we know in Victoria as well
Victoria Police do collect 'hate crime' data, but this is the first project which looks at reports of hate crime by members of the community to police. The study found that crimes motivated by racial, ethnic and religious bias made up 81 per cent of all bias crime reports to police.
The most common-reported ethnicity was ‘Asian’ at 28 per cent, followed by 'Indian/Pakistani' at 20 per cent. The most common victim religion was 'Muslim' at 73 per cent, and Jewish at 14 per cent.
Offences reported included, assault, public verbal abuse, property damage, harassment in person and online.Professor Mason said the research shows that police data can be useful in monitoring and understanding the problem of bias crime.
We need to know what the community is reporting and we need to know what the police are recording so that we actually know what the problem looks like, that we have a picture of bias crime across New South Wales and across Australia. Without that official data we actually don't know how to respond and we don't know how to direct resources.
Acting Chief Executive Officer at the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia, Mohammad Al-Khafaji, said the study is alarming, but not surprising. "We have seen anecdotal evidence over the past few years that the majority of hate crimes are towards people of minority ethnicities, muslim people and people of different faiths. This is quite alarming for us, but this is not surprising."
While Professor Mason says there's been "a degree of commitment" within New South Wales police to address the issue through the bias crime initiative, the study also reveals that more work needs to be done to encourage bias crime reporting among marginalised communities.
Mr Al-Khafaji says more needs to be done to actually monitor hate crime and to ensure communities feel safe in reporting it - particularly when it comes to the Muslim community.
We all have a role to play in this to make sure that the law enforcement agencies and the Muslim communities work hand in hand and build that trust again, and I think for the community to feel safe again to be able to report hate crimes, because at the moment they're not reporting those crimes to the police and are actually turning to volunteer run organisatIons like islamophobia register to feel that sense of trust to be able to report those hate crimes.