Speakers from a diverse range of backgrounds, including a football chairman, a poet and a Guatemalan immigrant, will join our Chief Constable at a special event to mark Hate Crime Awareness Week on Tuesday (5 February).
The Chief Constable Andy Cooke QPM will address an audience of more than 250 people from communities across Merseyside at the event at the Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas Church, in Liverpool city centre to celebrate tolerance and inclusivity in Merseyside.
He will speak alongside Mark Palios, Executive Chairman of Tranmere Rovers; local poet Levi Tafari; Sasha Taylor, a trans female from Guatemala; Dave Kelly, Managing Director of Daisy UK and the Rector of Liverpool Rev Dr Crispin Pailing.
The event - chaired by BBC Radio Merseyside presenter Roger Phillips - will highlight how communities in Merseyside are working side by side to combat hate crime and will be attended by representatives from faith groups, support organisations, the Mini Police, local schoolchildren, housing associations and police officers.
There will also be a play, ‘Unite Against Hate’, performed by the People’s Players from the Royal Court and written by Paula Currie.
Later the same day the first ever Hate Crime Reporting Centre based at an NHS Trust will be launched at Whiston Hospital.
The Hate Crime Reporting Scheme, at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, is a confidential reporting service enabling staff, patients, and other visitors to the Trust to contact the Merseyside Police hate crime co-ordinator. They can then discuss in complete confidence any incidents or concerns around hate crime, or discrimination involving race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The service will provide confidential advice and options on resolving any concerns or incidents that take place occurring either in the Trust or within our local communities.
All week there will be events and initiatives launched to help combat hate crime, with officers visiting schools and community groups, and partner agencies running workshops and awareness sessions.
Merseyside Police is calling on victims and witnesses of hate crimes to come forward with any information that could help bring perpetrators to justice.
T/DCI Paul Lamb said: "Merseyside is a very welcoming place, and the vast majority of people show a great deal of understanding and tolerance towards people who are different to them.
“But we know hate crime has been a vastly under-reported crime for a long time now. If people are being targeted because they are perceived to be different then we want them to come forward and tell us, rather than suffer in silence.
"The more action we can take against perpetrators, the more confidence we can instil in victims that if they report things to the police we will protect, support them and make it stop.
"Victims can report directly to the police where specially-trained hate crime officers will treat them with sensitivity and compassion, or via third party reporting centres such as the new op nein Whiston hospital, at fire stations, citizen advice bureaus and elsewhere where the information will be passed on.
"By continuing to encourage greater reporting we can protect and support more victims and make it clear to perpetrators that we will do everything we can to put them before the courts."
Chief Constable Andy Cooke QPM said: "Merseyside is rightly proud of being a diverse place to live, work and socialise and I am delighted that so many representatives from across the community can come together for this event. We hear so much about division in society at the moment, but it is an honour to lead our force in an area where people are generally tolerant of other people regardless of their race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or political persuasion.
"There is no place in our society for hate crime and Merseyside Police is committed to maintaining the right of all our communities to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.
"It is vital that we give our support to anyone who believes they have been subjected to abuse or left in fear because of who they are and I want to reassure the public that the Force is committed to taking action against those responsible for hate crime and building trust with the most vulnerable members of our communities."
Jane Kennedy, Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside, said: "Merseyside’s Hate Crime Awareness Week is an important date in our calendar, which gives us all the opportunity to celebrate and promote the rich diversity of our region. It also gives us an opportunity to come together to reaffirm and renew our commitment to challenging and tackling acts of hatred carried out today.
“Our region is famed for its warm welcome. A welcome that extends to people from all races and faiths, to people of all sexual orientations and genders and to people of all abilities, whether they are visiting for work or leisure or whether they have chosen to call Merseyside home.
“At a time when our country and the world seems deeply divided, it is more essential than ever that we remain vigilant to combat discrimination, racism and prejudice in our communities.”
We urge anyone who has been subjected to hate to contact Merseyside Police. Or, if for any reason you don’t feel comfortable speaking to the police, ring independent charity Stop Hate UK on 0800 138 1625 who provide 24/7 help and support, or visit http://www.stophateuk.org/. There are also more than 90 independent centres across the region where you can go to contact Stop Hate UK - anywhere displaying a ‘red hand’ logo is part of this important network standing up against hate.