Reported incidents of disability hate crime in Plymouth have risen by 942 per cent.
The number of incidents reported has risen from seven in 2012 to 73 in 2013.
While Devon and Cornwall Police claim that the huge rise is due to confidence that victims’ complaints will be dealt with effectively, the level of hate crime against disabled people has been soaring across the country.
Charities have raised concerns that rhetoric about 'scroungers' is playing a role in the national rise.
Devon and Cornwall Police say that it's diverse communities team (DCT) works alongside officers from neighbourhood teams and partner organisations to raise awareness, increase knowledge and build trust and confidence with those from disability support groups.
And over the last year this work has focused on education sessions with groups to raise awareness of hate and mate crimes and how to report these crimes and incidents.
Sergeant Robin Loveridge, from Plymouth’s DCT, outlined the type of incident now being reported to the police: “Recently we had an incident where a man with Down’s syndrome was verbally threatened and abused at a bus stop in the city centre, while he was in the company of his support worker.
“On another occasion a woman with learning disability was subjected to some pretty nasty name calling which caused her a great deal of distress.
“Police are currently investigating both incidents and we will always push for a full sanction to be applied in such circumstances.”
Police and partners, including the city council and fire service, are supporting Plymouth People First, the self-advocacy charity for adults with a learning disability, in holding a Blue Light Day on June 17, at Plympton fire station.
Over 20 organisations South Western Ambulance Service, the Red Cross, the National Health Service will have stands and around 200 adults with learning disability are expected to attend on the day.
“Plymouth People First is grateful to its sponsors and particularly Plymouth’s diversity unit for facilitating a second Blue Light Day,” said Jill Singh, self-advocacy project officer.
“Ensuring the continued safety of our members and encouraging partner agencies to develop working relationships with our users, to increase access to services, is an integral part of our work.
“I am genuinely thrilled with the huge uptake of offers we’ve had from different organisations to get involved with our event this year.”
Ros Clarke, the community safety manager, for the fire service said: “Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is delighted to be the host venue for the second annual Blue Light Day for adults with learning disabilities.
“It is through close working with our partner agencies that we are able to engage with those most vulnerable in our communities, events such as these afford us the unique opportunity to deliver our collective safety messages whilst giving those who attend a really enjoyable day out.”
Sgt Loveridge added: “The day is an important chance to engage with a variety of support groups from across the city to raise awareness, increase knowledge and build trust and confidence.
“It will allow us to show how important it is that people do not tolerate any form of hate or mate crime and report incidents to the police. It also allows us to show them how to go about reporting.
“It is also very important that the general public report these incidents and demonstrate that these crimes are not acceptable and not tolerated within Plymouth.”