Sixth form students at Limavady Grammar school were urged to get their mobiles out and download a new smart phone app as part of a scheme to tackle the under-reporting of hate crime this week.
More than 200 pupils packed the school’s lecture theatre hall on Monday to listen to PSNI constable Pamela Gregory explain the workings of the free “Hands off my friend” app, which allows anyone who is the victim of, or witness of what is perceived as a hate crime, to report it anonymously.
“It is for the victim or witness to decide if what they witness is a crime motivated by hate,” she said. “This app allows you to report an incident... it is free, simple to use and accessible to everyone.”
Hate crime is any incident perceived to have been committed against any person or property on the grounds of a particular person’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, political opinion or disability, pupils were told.
The smart phone application was first launched in Derry three months ago and in Limavady in November 2012, as part of a multi agency approach to tackle the underreporting of hate crime and encourage confidence in police, following a successful website campaign.
Good Relations Officer for Limavady borough Council Sinead Barr said: “This is an innovative way for people to report hate crime in a manner that they feel comfortable with.
“It is also an example of how the various Councils, P.S.N.I and The Foyle Multi-Cultural Forum are acknowledging the technology-driven time that we live in and are trying to move with the times. I would like to encourage everyone to download this app on their phones and utilise when they see fit.”
With festive celebrations just around the corner, school Vice principal, Nigel Handforth encouraged pupils to make use of the application if they witness a hate crime.
“Before this scheme was launched, figures were published relating to hate crime figures in Council areas across the northwest,” he said. “Some of the figures were frightening and I would urge people to act as responsible citizens during Christmas period.”