Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan column: Time to come together after vote division

North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan.

North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan.

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These are times of dizzying change.

June’s referendum result arguably kick-started the biggest shift in direction for our country since World War II.

And we now have in Trump an unexpected president-elect who has ridden a wave of populism all the way to the US White House.

Never have divisions between communities, and sometimes within them, felt greater. Even here in North Yorkshire, we’ve not been immune.

Last month, North Yorkshire Police released figures which showed reports of hate crime in the area had risen 40 per cent in the last two years.

There’s also evidence from across the country that incidents have increased markedly since Brexit.

Hate crime can include anything from name-calling and verbal abuse to violence. But what sets it apart from other crimes is that it is motived by hostility or prejudice towards one particular part of a person’s identity, such as their disability, gender identity, race and sexuality.

But whatever people’s political differences – whether you were an in-er or out-er, Clinton or Trump – I think we can all agree that such crimes violate core values that our society holds dear. Decency. Respect. Tolerance.

A young, black student I met told me recently that she is called names so frequently that it had become an everyday experience for her.

“It makes you scared to exist in a space with other people because you don’t know where it’s going to come from,” she told me.

How horrible that anyone should have to feel that way.

It is totally unacceptable and that’s why I would urge anyone experiencing this type of crime to come forward and report it, ideally to the police but, if not, to the independent group Stop Hate UK.

If you don’t want to report it anywhere but still need support, call the Supporting Victims unit on 0808 1689293 – they are there to help any victim of crime, whatever it is, whether you report it to the police or not.

One project that is delivering real results is the Local Intervention Fire Education (LIFE) project, which is partly funded by my office and delivered by North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. Over the course of a week, children between 13 and 17 are taught discipline and teamwork, as well as getting a taste of life as a firefighter.

The course has a track record of turning young lives around and giving children fresh motivation for their academic work.

Indeed, some have gone on to become firefighters themselves.

I also recently invested £20,000 in the Harrogate Homeless Project and its No Second Night Out scheme.

It is this time of year, in the freezing cold and pouring rain, and when most of us are lucky enough to be turning our minds to family and holidays, where some of these issues particularly hit home.

I will always invest in local projects because local people know what works best for local areas. If you have any ideas, and need a helping hand to get a community safety project off the ground, take a look at the Community Fund page on my website.

The point I want to make is that regardless of external influence, the impact is always local and it’s in local communities where we can all make a real difference.

Only last week I met a young woman who had been subject to a violent attack in a nightclub and who courageously decided to meet up with her attacker.

The meeting was made possible by a charity called Remedi, which specialises in ‘restorative justice’.

The young victim described how the meeting helped her become less afraid and regain control of her life. And for possibly the first time, the offender understood the impact of her behaviour on a fellow human being and has started to rebuild her life.

The result is two young people now able to move forward positively.

We can all take a leaf from their book.