Last week’s full council meeting, held at Barnsley Town Hall, saw councillors vote to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to work towards removing anti-Semitism from the town.
According to latest figures obtained by the Chronicle, 3,126 hate crimes and hate incidents were reported to South Yorkshire Police in 2019 - nearly 200 more than the year before - and many relate to attacks on the Jewish community.
Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton said the swastika symbols - used by the Nazi party - had been found in the town before the anniversary which took place on January 27.
He said: “We’re fighting battles against all forms of hatred as it’s completely unacceptable whether it’s anti-Semitism or any other form of prejudice.
“We have agreed to join the alliance as it will enable us to act better should any further instances occur. Luckily, it’s not a major issue in Barnsley, but before Christmas swastikas did appear in what was the run-up to the 75th anniversary (of the liberation of Auschwitz) last month.
“Local authorities across the country are increasingly taking a stand against prejudice as part of their commitment to promote equality and develop inclusive and cohesive communities.
“It’s a pleasure to pledge Barnsley’s involvement, but it’s done with a degree of regret as it should not be something we still have to do to protect our residents in this day and age.”
The council meeting was told that anti-Semitism cases have increased in the last three years, but it’s hoped the local authority’s involvement - backed by the police - in the international pledge demonstrates a ‘more robust’ commitment to tackling racial-led hatred.
Coun Hannah Kitching added: “I was delighted to see this on the council’s agenda and it’s great that Barnsley’s now a part of this scheme, but it’s so sad that we’re still seeing cases in 2020.”
According to the statistics, reported hate crimes in Barnsley have averaged between 200 and 250 per year since 2012 - figures thought to be lower than the true number of incidents due to victims’ reluctance to report them - although police have recorded a marked rise in the last year.
Chief Superintendent Sarah Poolman, who is Barnsley’s district commander and also the force’s lead for tackling hate crime, said: “This will not be tolerated and as a force we are continuing to work hard to build confidence within our communities to report these crimes and support those who have been subjected to it.
“In some communities we know that hate crimes are still under-reported which is why, alongside key partner organisations, we are doing a lot of educational work to raise awareness of what a hate crime is and how to report it.
“We know it takes a great deal of courage to report a crime and we want to reassure our residents that we always listen to victims, take all allegations seriously and investigate all hate crimes thoroughly and I would strongly encourage people to report incidents to us.
“Within the force we have dedicated hate crime co-ordinators in every district who actively engage with community support groups and victims to build confidence and resilience at a local level.
“All hate crimes are reviewed in order to achieve positive outcomes for victims, and we also regularly seek feedback from victims and community groups through our surveys and local hate crime scrutiny panels to constantly assess and improve the way we do things.”
* If you have been a victim of or a witness to a hate crime, call 101, 999 in an emergency, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or contact a third-party reporting centre.