‘Scary’, ‘excluded’ and ‘beyond awful’ are just some of the words victims of hate crime have used to describe their experiences right here in North Devon.

Stop hate crime: advisor Syed Jusef and crime prevention officer Kim Foster are working to spread the message. Picture: Tony GussinStop hate crime: advisor Syed Jusef and crime prevention officer Kim Foster are working to spread the message. Picture: Tony Gussin

As part of Hate Crime Awareness Week this week, people have been urged not to suffer in silence as the latest figures reveal an increase in the number of hate crimes in North Devon.

While the police have promised a zero tolerance approach, there has been an increase of nine per cent in hate crimes to 118 in North Devon for 2017-18.

Hate crime is one motivated by a person’s race, gender, disability, religion or sexual orientation.

This year the North Devon and Torridge Community Safety Partnership is campaigning heavily in local schools to raise awareness and to encourage more people to come forward and report hate crime.

Ilfracombe mayor Val GatesIlfracombe mayor Val Gates

Other recent examples include a disabled woman with learning difficulties does not want to go to Barnstaple Fair any more after being left scared and vulnerable when young people shouted abuse at her.

It is among several instances of hate crime instances provided to the Gazette as part of Hate Crime Awareness Week to highlight the ongoing issue still affecting people in the area.

Members of ethnic minorities have said they feel excluded and left out at the school gate. One parent said: ‘I always wait alone, and walk home with my children alone’.

Another added: ‘Parents don’t let their children play with mine’.

Sector Inspector Shaun Kenneally.Sector Inspector Shaun Kenneally.

And a member of the LGBT community said: ‘I feel ‘out-numbered’ and vulnerable in North Devon and have experienced homophobia here, the likes of which I haven’t experienced elsewhere since the early 80s’.

North Devon and Torridge Community Safety Partnership and the police are doing all they can to highlight the issue and encourage more people to report hate crimes.

To draw attention to awareness week, local figures including mayors, police and fire officers and council heads of department have been photographed with posters and their own words calling for an end to hate crime.

Tavistock mayor Paul Ward and mayoress Jane Ward.Tavistock mayor Paul Ward and mayoress Jane Ward.

**** Download your own poster to support the campaign by posting your own messuage on social media CLICK HERE .

Crime prevention officer Kim Foster said: “It does not have to be the victim who reports it – everyone is responsible and if people would just report it them we could get a better picture of what’s going on.”

Hate crime in 2017-18 has risen by nine per cent locally, including an increase in crimes against members of ethnic minorities, the disabled and transgender people. Crimes motivated by religion or sexual orientation have dropped compared with 2016-17.

Staff at Everest Gurkha Chef in Barnstaple support Hate Crime Awareness Week.Staff at Everest Gurkha Chef in Barnstaple support Hate Crime Awareness Week.

Detective Inspector Phil Gray said hate crime could be any offence motivated by race, sexual orientation, disability or gender and that anyone could be a victim.

He said: “Hate crime affects our community and has a massive impact on the victim and their wider friends and family.

“I have a complete zero tolerance to it and it saddens me that in 2018, we continue to see crimes of this nature towards individuals and groups within our communities.

“I want to encourage you to come forward if you feel you have been the victim of a hate crime or indeed witnessed an offence which you perceive was driven by hate.

Young people in Barnstaple support Hate Crime Awareness Week as part of the One Human Race March.Young people in Barnstaple support Hate Crime Awareness Week as part of the One Human Race March.

“It is unacceptable within our society and with your confidence to come forward and report it, we can work together with our partners to rid society of this offensive criminal act.”

You can report hate crime by calling 101 or ONLINE or speak to your local policing team.

**** For more information about hate crime CLICK HERE .

Visiting schools as part of Hate Crime Awareness Week.Visiting schools as part of Hate Crime Awareness Week.

**** How your business or organisation can sign up to the pledge to prevent hate crime .