Victoria Police are calling on the public to report any stigma-motivated incident that has been on the rise since the COVID pandemic began last year and a new media campaign is due to be launched soon to get the message out.
Acting Inspector Andrew Gardner, who spoke at a meeting of the Multicultural Media Reference Group on Thursday, said the Asian, Muslim and Jewish communities were the groups most frequently targeted for abuse, but were not the only ones affected by bias-motivated crime over the past 18 months.
Assistant Inspector Gardner, Acting Inspector of Community Engagement, Eastern Region, said other target groups included any group identified by status or identity, race, religion, sexuality, age or disability.
Graffiti or property damage, people shouting insults in passing cars or making comments in public spaces were examples of bias-motivated crimes that have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic.
“The incidents have varied to include assaults, property damage and have been more frequent,” Inspector A / Gardner said, adding that police were speaking to community groups about the situation.
Over the past week, the Jewish community had been targeted following news articles reporting violations of pandemic regulations in one case. The Muslim community has also been targeted more recently following COVID cases linked to Al-Taqwa College in Truganina in late August. He did not believe that the incidents of prejudice were related to developments in Afghanistan or to the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
“When cases go to court, the courts will be informed (by the police) that there were elements of prejudice (in the case),” Insp Gardner said.
Erin Kirby, community engagement manager (Priority and Safer Communities Division), said the new campaign will include online video presentations in 10 languages, Erin Kirby.
“Victoria Police will investigate bias-motivated crime, but not all cases of bias and hate are reported to police,” she said. The video would indicate which behaviors constitute bias and how they can be reported in easy-to-understand language and images.
READ MORE: Bravery lessons from a heroic Greek girl
“The fundamental question is to get people to report any instances of bias. They might not think they can do it, but they should report it, ”Deputy Inspector Gardner said.
He added that while the reports did not immediately lead to arrests, police would keep the incidents on record if other incidents occurred at a later stage.
The Prime (Police Responding to Mental Health) training course for officers responding to community mental health incidents was also highlighted at the meeting.
Theresa Banks, program manager, PRIME Training said there had been an increase in incidents of mental cases as officers from across the state were called in for such incidents every 10 minutes.
While there were other resources available to deal with these incidents in metropolitan areas, in regional areas, it was primarily the police alone who had to deal with incidents related to mental health.
The two-day course, which was very well received by participants, provided officers with methods to defuse situations before they got out of hand. The course also encouraged officers to engage with family and friends and direct them to the most suitable services to help them.