A COUNCILLOR has hit out at police for their focus on hate crime, saying resources shouldn’t be focusing on “someone saying something mean on Twitter.”

But the comments by Councillor Simon Cooke (Cons, Bingley Rural), were criticised by both police and fellow councillors, who accused him of trivialising what is a very serious crime.

The comments were made when Bradford Council’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee were given an update on the work done by the Bradford Community Safety Partnership at a meeting on Thursday.

It included figures on crime levels in the district, as well as what was being done by police and other organisations to tackle crime.

Cllr Cooke said: “There is a complete disconnect in respect to these priorities and the priorities of the communities I represent, and I think police lose credibility when they they focus on things that aren’t the concerns of the public.

“According to this report there has been 6,000 burglaries in the past 12 months. There is one reference to that in the report. I know from speaking to people that burglary is the single biggest concern of the people I represent.

“However, there is more focus in the report on hate crime, which I call ‘the new blasphemy.’ It seems you are putting effort and money trying to get more people to report someone writing something mean on Twitter rather than choosing to prioritise burglary.

“The only reason there is a rise in hate crime is because you are fishing for more people to report it.”

DCI Lisa Newman from West Yorkshire Police replied: “I think you’re really diminishing the impact of hate crime on individuals and communities. It is absolutely a serious crime and saying it is just being mean on Twitter is really not reflective of hate crime.”

She also maintained that burglaries were given high priority by police, adding: “It is wrong to say we are not putting resources into it.

“The difference is that burglaries are often opportunistic. A hate crime is an attack on who you are.”

Chair Councillor Nazam Azam (Lab, City) told Cllr Cooke: “You can’t say hate crime doesn’t effect people. It can be people being killed for their sexual orientation or because they have a beard.”

Councillor Sarfraz Nazir (Lab, Manningham) called Cllr Cooke’s comments “demeaning” adding: “Hate crime might not have a big impact in the community you serve, but it has a huge impact on the district. Burglaries impact families and individuals, but hate crimes impact entire communities. Saying it is someone being mean on Twitter doesn’t do it justice.”

Cllr Cooke said defending free speech was the “biggest issue in politics.”

There were 1,533 reports of hate crime in the district last year. Councillors were told that out of the hate crime incidents reported between April and November, 73 per cent were due to race, six per cent faith, nine per cent disability, 11 per cent sexual orientation and one per cent were against transgender people.

Of those race hate crimes, 84 per cent included an element of violence.