POLICE are mounting a crackdown on hate crime during the Festival period to combat an expected rise in offending as international visitors flock to the city.
Officers will provide a high-visibility presence in the city centre while also patrolling in bars and nightclubs in a bid to provide extra reassurance.
The move is part of a campaign launched this week to raise awareness of hate crime and encourage reporting, with adverts being posted in taxis and on bus shelters.
Councillor Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events champion, backed the campaign and said that a “small minority” should not be allowed to wreck the city’s reputation.
The scheme comes after figures revealed in January that hate crimes, including attacks due to a victim’s race, sexual orientation or religious beliefs, were on the increase. Racially motivated hate crimes totalled 995 between April and December last year in Edinburgh, compared with the three-year average of 829 – a rise of 20 per cent.
Chief Inspector Gavin Phillip, who has policing responsibility for the city centre, said: “During the Festival we will have Operation Assure with more officers in pubs and clubs. It will be a particularly busy summer with the Olympics and the European football championships so licensed venues will have more customers. We’ll be there to make the small minority who would carry out hate crimes are dealt with robustly.
“We do see an influx of visitors during the Festival from around the world. We want these visitors to enjoy themselves and to be aware that they can report offences to police.”
As part of the new campaign, officers will visit licensed premises on Friday, Saturday and Sunday along with officers from British Transport Police and council community safety wardens to encourage staff to report hate crimes committed in their venues.
The officers will also urge bar staff and door stewards, who often find themselves victims of hate crimes at the hands of drunken customers, to alert them about any incidents.
Chief Insp Phillip said: “It is completely unacceptable to verbally or physically abuse any other person because of their race, gender, religion and belief, sexual orientation, disability or age.
“Alcohol is often a factor. That’s why we see hate crimes aimed at taxi drivers, door stewards, and bar staff.
Chief Insp Phillip said he believed the rise in hate crimes being reported was a sign victims are growing more confident in contacting police.
Cllr Cardownie said: “Scotland and Edinburgh have a reputation worldwide for welcoming visitors and making sure they have a good time. But unfortunately there is a small minority who hold prejudiced views and seek to take them out on international visitors.
“I would urge anyone who witnesses such an incident to intervene and call police. We have an enviable reputation for our hospitality, and we don’t want that affected by the actions of a few.
“Thankfully, though hate crimes may go up at that time of year, it should not affect anyone’s decision to visit what is overall a very safe city.”
Foysol Choudhury, chair of Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council (Elrec), said: “Elrec welcomes the initiative to tackle hate crime. Greater awareness will encourage people to report it.”
The figures released in January showed that hate crimes involving sexual orientation climbed by 69 per cent against the three-year average, from 65 to 110, while those involving religious beliefs soared by 90 per cent from 29 to 55 during the same nine-month period.