Blacks asked to aid victims of racism

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The Independent Online
The charity Victim Support is trying to recruit more volunteers from the ethnic minorities in a move to encourage more victims of racial harassment to report their attacks.

Members of ethnic minorities are more likely than other people to be victims of crime; but in many cases, especially those racially motivated, the offences are never reported.

Though the number of racial incidents recorded by police has tripled since 1988, some estimates suggest that as few as one in ten cases of harassment are reported. This may be through fear or mistrust of the police or because such offences can seem relatively "minor" even though their cumulative effect can be devastating.

Victim Support, whose role is to counsel victims of crime, is trying to tackle this problem by taking on more non-white volunteers for their support helpline.

The Home Office-funded charity's view is that such volunteers, who will offer advice and counselling, will make the helpline more "accessible" to ethnic minorities.

Spokeswoman Helen Pegg said that although all their workers needed a level of understanding, they wanted to make use of a "full range of experience and skills".

Although there will be no pressure on victims to go to the police, they will be given the chance to make contact with a local VS group.

"We recognise that some people may have reasons why they don't want to go to police, and we respect that," said Ms Pegg. "The line is confidential. But, if they want, a local volunteer will go with them to a police station."

Derron Leid, a racial harassment caseworker for VS in Southwark, south London, said there is a "desperate need" for non-white workers to deal with victims of harassment. He adds: "VS is seen as a white and middle class organisation by some."

Having non-white people would "help to instill an element of faith and trust", said Mr Leid, who is black. "You have an awareness, there are things they do not have to explain to you, so you can focus all your energies on trying to help them."