Letter: Racism must be reported responsibly

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The Independent Online
Sir: On 4 September your story on racial unrest in Gravesend was headlined: 'One safe Nazi; one dead Sikh'. As the letter (11 September) from Chief Constable David Phillips pointed out, your story was as glib as it was misrepresentative. It implied that local police were not responding effectively.

Today, your feature ('Racism: West Europe's mounting death toll', 13 January) highlighting Gravesend on a map of the UK, compounds the errors of your earlier story. To link the suicide of Sohan Sanghera to racial murders in Europe is not only wrong, it may cause considerable damage to his family and the community.

One of the highest priorities for my officers in Gravesend is investigating racially motivated incidents. While they represent one out of every 1,000 incidents we deal with, we devote considerable time and resources to them. During 1993 there were 40 racial incidents in Gravesend; we resolved 20. During the past three years there has been a consistent decline in the numbers of reported incidents, along with a significant increase in the number of incidents we have resolved.

We react quickly and effectively. This year, there have been two serious assaults. In the first, a juvenile was arrested within three hours and is before the courts. In the second, my officers were on the scene within minutes and an offender was arrested within 36 hours. He has been prosecuted for two criminal offences.

Racism in any form is extremely serious and all of us, including the media, have an obligation to treat the issues responsibly.

Yours faithfully,

DENIS O'CONNOR

Deputy Chief Constable

Kent County Constabulary

Maidstone, Kent

13 January

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