How do people report racial hate crime?

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Edinburgh

Principal Researcher

Yarong Xie

Level of Research


Project Start Date

April 2018

Research Context

Racial hate crimes are the most reported hate crimes in the UK, and the majority of the reports are received from 999 and/or 101 calls. This form of reporting relies predominantly on verbal language, yet research suggests that the notion of racism is often ambiguous in interactions. This ambiguity makes allegations against racism susceptible to challenges, for instance, an alleged racist encounter can be countered as a joke. "Hate Crime Operational Guideline" also recognises that ‘prejudice behaviour is not always explicit and evidenced by the use of clear and crude language’. These difficulties can help explain why racial hate crimes remain largely under-reported.

In response, this project sets out to study racial/religious hate crimes reported to the police via telephone calls. Gaining a better awareness of how racial/religious hate crimes are reported can help enhance the recognition of and response to racial/religious hate crimes. This fits well with the HM Government Hate Crime Action Plan, which prioritises to ‘increase reporting and access to support; and to improve the operational response to hate crime’. Ultimately, a thorough understanding of how hate crime reports are produced and handled can save time and resources for the police, and increase the public’s confidence to report hate crimes in the long-term.

The findings may also be shared with third-party reporting centres, victim support centres, and other related organisations. These findings could also be used to develop training workshops in collaboration with the police and allied agencies, for people who are the first point of contact.

Research Methodology

The researcher plans to collect segments of telephone recordings of racial hate crimes reported via 999 and/or 101 to police forces across the UK. These include but are not limited to reports delivered by victims themselves, bystanders/witnesses, family members, and/or other persons. Personal information (such as callers and call-takers’ names, demographics, contact details and so on) will NOT be part of the data collection, only descriptions of the incident(s). If personal information is not recorded separately, recordings will need to be cropped. The researcher will work with individual forces to resolve this such as working onsite to remove the personal information at preferred police premises.

Collection will begin after informed consent is obtained from individual gatekeepers at each police force, and continue over a period agreed with the individual gatekeepers (depending on whether the recordings are pre-existing and how many reports are received by the police forces in a given period of time). Collection will cease as soon as consistent discursive patterns are found emerging.

Phone calls will be transcribed into text with pseudonyms applied to mask indirectly identifiable information (e.g. name(s) of the perpetrator(s), geographical locations, and work place). Special categories such as race information will be retained for its relevance to the research. They will be redacted if people can be directly identified through it, but the anonymised collection and storage mean the likelihood of this is low.

The calls will be examined as unfolding and ongoing interactions. In this way, reporting of racial hate crime is treated as progressive and two-way achievement. This is because, first, a report is determined by what and how callers describe the incidents. Second, it is paramount how these descriptions are received and responded to by call-takers (as race-related or something else). Third, if call-takers recognise the race-related elements, how do they follow the callers up so that an agreeable end result can be achieved (be it logging a formal complaint, asking for urgent help, or other services)?

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

April 2020
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